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Flag Day fiasco: Confusion over Pride flags outside Winchester storefronts

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Posted at 7:00 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 19:10:31-04

WINCHESTER, Ky. (LEX 18) — A lack of communication over free-speech sounds incredibly ironic, but it seems as if that’s what we’re looking at as it relates to a Flag Day mix-up in downtown Winchester.

The mayor here is a former United States Marine, who wanted to see his city awash in American flags as is normally the case on Flag Day. But this year, many business owners have adorned their storefronts with Pride flags. With a Boy Scout troop set to place American flags in the brackets around town on June 13 in advance of Flag Day, they didn’t feel comfortable removing the Pride flags from their holders.

Mason Rhodus, who owns Mason on Main, said he was never asked to remove his Pride flags. But he also flies an American flag outside his store daily.

“That flag never changes, because I’m also an American,” he said.

Only recently did he feel comfortable adding the Pride flags.

“I did it last year. And it warmed my heart this year to see that others wanted to join in and do that,” he said.

But some of the responses Mr. Rhodus received on social media weren’t favorable. Unfortunately, much of them can likely be attributed to a misunderstanding; that the mayor had insisted on, or even requested American flags. But Ed Burtner said that was not the case.

“I was in the Marine Corps. Things like the Constitution and the First Amendment and the American Flag are pretty important to me. I want to see the flag fly, but I also want to make sure people have the right to speech,” he said.

“I was never called. I was never personally attacked here, never asked to take anything down,” Rhodus said, before adding that he had heard some other store owners may have been called, but wasn’t certain of the nature of the call.

Mr. Burtner further explained the alleged request further.

“The city attorney said it’s (free) speech. And when the city attorney says it’s speech then that what we go with.”

Mayor Burtner said this is the beginning of a city-wide initiative by store owners who might choose to fly the flags symbolic of different causes at different times during the year.

“For example,” he said, “(during) breast cancer awareness month, there will be pink flags.”

Ideally, Burtner likes to have a heavy American flag presence in town from Flag Day through July 4th. He said the Boy Scouts will resume their job of placing them in empty brackets around town on Monday the 20th.

Mason Rhodus noted that there are plenty of empty holders around town for them to complete that task, which is accurate.