As a veteran and the former parade organizer for several years, here in Kingman, I would like to insert my thoughts on the current issues that involved Flags in the Kingman Veterans Day Parade.
To quote the secretary of defense “Flags are powerful symbols…” In history, military units from the earliest time would follow their Flag into battle. In early times there were Coats Of Arms held above the battlefield so the armies could identify were their unit or leaders were located. The term “rally round the flag” can have various meanings depending what context it is used and this can lead to a scholarly debate on the term of which there is not enough room in this article. The recent Kingman Veterans Day Parade has opened up a serious debate on just how powerful the flag symbol can be in a community.
The Kingman Veterans Day Parade is a local community event. Its is not sanctioned by the US Government, the Arizona State Government or the Mohave County Government. The only involvement that the government has in this parade is that the City of Kingman issues a Special Event Permit. This permit DOES NOT restrict any types of flags or signage during an event and to my knowledge the City of Kingman took no position on this veterans day parade use of flags.
The current parade committee has the right to set rules for the parade. The right of the parade committee to set rules has been upheld in various court cases. In 2021 the federal appeals court ruled that the City of Alpharetta, could ban the Sons of Confederate Veterans from flying the Confederate battle flag in a parade. Similar court cases around the country have also ruled that the confederate battle flag can be banned. See… Sons of the Southern Cross v. Hurst, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14219 (W.D. Ark. 1/26/2022). I am sure we will now hear from those who will want to attack the courts and use all sorts of derogatory language directed at judges and their court staff for violating their rights.
The parade rules should reflect rules and regulations that deal with the safety of the participants and spectators. A simple google search will turn up various parade rules that can be modified to fit the local communities. As this is a Veterans Day Parade the parade should reflect a theme that honors ALL VETERANS from all wars that the United States Of America participated in, even if you do not agree with that war or conflict that we fought in. My war, Vietnam is a perfect example of this.
The vast majority of parade rules have a section that prohibits the display of obscene and/or offensive signs, banners and flags. Is this a violation of your free speech? Yes and No. As this is an invitation event, you have to register for the Parade. That means the Parade Committee has the right to refuse your entry and restrict certain types of flags and signage. Regardless of your current political views the committee may determine that it is not proper to exhibit a flag or sign that says F*^K ???????, or similar display when such a display is in full view of children and it is not keeping with the overall theme of the parade. Speaking of the theme of the parade it is listed as “Represent”. Represent what or who I was asked? Represent Veterans, Represent Freedom, Patriotism? I told the person it was up to them or email or call “kavaaz” for the correct definition.
Speaking of “kavaaz”. If you Google “Kingman Veterans Day Parade” you will get multiple hits, none of which link directly to the current veterans day parade for 2023, which is under “kavaaz.org”. When you get to the “kavaaz” page you still have to hunt for the parade rules. To get to “kavazza” which stands for Kingman Area Veterans Association you would need to know their name first in order to search for them. It appears that the whole process was not very well thought out.
To get back on point. As noted prior the parade committee has a right to restrict Flags and signage in the Parade.
Where did this Parade Committee go wrong? First it looked at the listing of Flags approved by the US Department Of Defense for use on DoD Installations. The committee appeared to have adopted this regulation in total and banned all other flags, although I have been told the listings of approved flags changes daily. I did not check as I was not searching for a 10 page listing of approved flags. As noted prior this is not a Dod authorized parade and the City Of Kingman is not an approved DoD Military installation.
As this is a community event and not a military event the committee should have considered the overall feelings of the Kingman community, not other communities around the country. If you follow the wording on the web site it can be interpreted that ALL FLAGS not listed are banned, which means Flags for VFW, American Legion, Boys Scouts and others can’t be displayed. Did the committee ban the use of a Republican flag or a Democratic flag? Does the committee have a right to do this …Yes, as based on prior noted research and court cases.
How did this get so confusing? It is simple someone overthought the principle of the parade rules for a local community. Rather than look at past history of parades here in Kingman a “few” decided what the public wants and issued a new set of rules. If you look at the some of the court cases the parade committees set the rules based on the overall views of the public in their area. Rather than have some simple wording that has something like “1: No flags or signage that is deemed obscene or offense by the parade committee will be allowed. 2: No display of any flags or symbols that denote the confederate battle flag or similar design will be allowed.” In two simple sentences you have set your rules. Will this make everyone happy, no, but it cuts down the controversy that says you have banned other organizations that support veterans. Can the parade committee ban a local business from displaying the the confederate flag or rainbow flag along the parade route…No! This would be a resolution that must be passed by the city and opens up a new debate.
As a veteran I am sorry to see our community go down this rabbit hole. Both Veterans and business who support veterans and citizens should have a say in our parade. On Veterans Day I feel we should honor all veterans of any war that our military fought in. We do not need to start a new war fighting over who has what right to fly which flag in what parade?
W. Terry Flanagan (USMC-1965-1969)