Emails have revealed that a flag pole at the national Stonewall monument was quietly offloaded to New York, after Trump administration officials raised objections to a rainbow flag being flown.
The area around New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn was designated as a national monument by President Obama in 2016, with a memorial unveiled that is maintained by the National Park Service.
However, emails published by E&E News under a freedom of information request revealed that Trump administration officials were squeamish about the rainbow flag flying from a federally-maintained flag pole on the site.
Employees raised ‘safety concerns’ after Trump officials ordered removal of Stonewall Pride flag
The documents reveal that Trump appointee Todd Willens, now Chief of Staff at the Department of the Interior, ordered the removal of the Pride flag being flown from a pole at the site in October 2017.
National Park Service officials raised “significant concern on how this will transpire with the community,” with emails expressing fears that a decision to pull down the flag could even cause a “safety issue” at the site.
The decision sparked fevered discussions that concluded in a compromise, seeing responsibility for the flag pole and ownership of the flag—paid for by the federal government—being transferred to New York.
National Park Service rangers places rainbow flags on the fence at the Stonewall National Monument in the West Village neighbourhood of Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan, New York City on June 19, 2019. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty)
The emails reveal that officials prepared a response to potential press enquiries claiming that the flag pole, at the edge of the federally-controlled land, was never actually on its property.
The document claims: “When it was determined that the flag pole is not on federal property, the flag was given to New York City Parks.”
However LGBT+ activist Ken Kidd, who organised the ceremony to launch the monument in 2017, said that claim is nonsensical.
He told E&E: “It would be quite irresponsible that they had maintained this flag pole and purchased the flag and flown it over a territory that didn’t belong to them. That just doesn’t make sense.”
Kidd accused the Trump administration of “washing their hands of the whole project,” claiming his relationship with officials “changed completely and dramatically” after the issue attracted attention from Washington.
Trump administration ‘actions speak louder than tweets’
The spat mirrors a controversy that has seen US embassies denied permission to fly the rainbow flag around the world to mark local Pride events, in a reversal of Obama-era policies.
LGBT+ group GLAAD added: “Trump [has been] trying to fool people into thinking he’s a friend to LGBTQ people. The actions of his Administration speak louder than tweets.”
Designating the monument in 2016, President Obama had said: “Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights.
“I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us.
“That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.”