A resolution condemning hate speech was passed unanimously by the Saugerties town council on Dec. 11. The measure was brought forth in response to several neighbors in Malden who say they were offended by their neighbor’s flying a Confederate flag.
“An ad hoc group of friends and neighbors came together to discuss what we could do to counter hateful rhetoric we have seen popping up in Saugerties,” said Maldenite Isabel Soffer, who helped write the resolution. “We thought that presenting a resolution to the town board, and its passing, would be a very good start and could help to get conversations started around issues of hate speech and how it should be handled. For those involved — from residents who have lived in Saugerties for decades to newcomers
— there is an overwhelming love for this town that is deeply evident, and a belief that we must counter hate in all forms with education and conversation.”
Sofer said the resolution was influenced by similar resolutions passed by other communities and six people contributed to its authoring.
“We are saddened by hateful rhetoric and symbols of hate against immigrants, people of color and people of varied ethnicity, race, religion, gender, gender identification or political views,” reads the resolution. “The Town of Saugerties denounces hateful speech and violent action directed at any individual or group … the Town of Saugerties Town Board reaffirms the value of a pluralistic society and the inalienable right of every person to live without fear and to assert that hate has no home here and moves to adopt this resolution.”
Saugerties joins a slew of other legislative bodies nationwide who have taken similar measures, including those in Gardiner, Albany, Portland, Ore., Charlotte, N.C. and the entire United States House of Representatives.
“I’m one of the citizens that is obliged to drive by a Confederate flag every day to get to my house. I want to simply attest that I am offended by it. I can add that I was born south of the Mason-Dixon Line,” said resident Charles Potter during public comment. … I’m a very very strong partisan of free speech, otherwise I wouldn’t get up and speak to you like this, but I do take it seriously. I think we understand that free speech that is offensive to citizens can be controlled. If I were to fly a pornographic flag out of my house, I think I would be told to desist.”
Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. supported the resolution, provided that language condemning certain symbols, like the Confederate flag, be removed from the wording of the resolution.
“We started this meeting by pledging our allegiance to our flag. That symbolizes the freedoms we enjoy,” he said. “There are people who live in our borders who see that flag differently, as a tool of colonialism … if they can do that to our flag, we can do it toward any particular symbol. This is reminding the town that this kind of behavior is inappropriate.”