Progressives living in the wealthy Southern California enclave of Laguna Beach have become triggered by a recent decision to repaint the city's police cars with the American flag running through lettering on the doors, according to the LA Times.
The design - approved in February - was deemed by some to be "unfit for the artists' community." The ensuing debate has pitted flag supporters against flag opponents, and should make for an interesting City Council meeting Tuesday evening. Officials say the matter is "far more nuanced," according to the Times.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said Monday the council is simply facing “a very narrow decision” about the brightness of the colors, but that the issue has devolved into a broader national conversation about patriotism.
He said he has received hundreds of emails from people around the country, mostly in support of keeping the flag designs on the car. -LA Times
"Clearly, the way it looks on the car is not what anyone expected it to look like," said Dicterow. "I think it’s reasonable that we’re going to look at it again so that whatever we [approve] is exactly what we put on the car."
And despite hundreds of emails supporting the design, Dicterow says that he has received around a dozen emails from concerned residents after the design was approved.
"Some of the words people used was that they felt it was threatening, intimidating, harassing and a symbol of racism."
Local artist Carrie Woodburn, whose parents served in the military, said at a recent council meeting that the design on the squad cars looked "aggressive." By Monday morning, Woodburn said she received over 150 messages via phone, text, voicemail and email who disagreed.
Woodburn says she perceived some of the messages as threats.
"I don’t really care too much about the design, other than what I said — it's bad art," she said, adding: "I’m being attacked for that because the narrative feeds a fire of division, which is what our culture has become."
California attorney Jennifer Welsh Zeiter says she finds the flag design "exceptional" and questions the loyalty of anyone who objects to it.
"They are so filled with hatred toward this ... office of the president of the United States and the current occupant of that office," said Zeiter, adding: "that they cannot see through their current biases to realize that a police vehicle with the American flag is the ultimate American expression."
According to City Manager John Pietig, the design originally approved in February was more of a "cloud-like look" vs. the design that now appears on the cars.
On Tuesday, the council will decide whether to continue with the logo or choose an alternative “out of an abundance of caution to address questions that have been raised about the process,” Pietig said two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, the questions about process turned into an online debate about intent. -LA Times
"People are screaming that the American flag on a police car is somehow or another ... hurting people’s feelings who might be immigrants or visitors," said Councilman Peter Blake. "People are actually ridiculous enough to bring up comments about our cop cars having American flags on them."
Laguna Beach Republicans president Emil Monda said that he thought the whole debate over the flag is "bizarre."
"It’s the flag of the United States of America," said Monda. "It’s not a Republican flag, it’s not a Democrat flag. It’s our flag, and we can’t lose that."
Laguna Beach cops, meanwhile, say people love the new design.
"Every time I came to a stop sign, every time I came to a red light, somebody is telling me the car looks great," said Cpl. Ryan Hotchkiss during the March meeting.
"Every one of our members that drives the car loves it, and we look forward to keeping them the way they are."