Thursday, 20 June 2024 12:50

Officials Call for “Unity Against Hate and Bigotry” in Milton

Minita Sanghvi (blue shirt) and Joe Seeman (wearing tie) joined by supporters at Milton Town Hall on June 17, 2024 to call upon the Milton Town Board to reverse their ban on flags on public property and to raise the Pride flag at Town Hall. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos Minita Sanghvi (blue shirt) and Joe Seeman (wearing tie) joined by supporters at Milton Town Hall on June 17, 2024 to call upon the Milton Town Board to reverse their ban on flags on public property and to raise the Pride flag at Town Hall. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos

MILTON — The section of Rowland Street runs through a mostly residential neighborhood rich with a variety of flags where the hanging cloths depict floral arrangements, and star-spangled banners, bright yellow streamers stitched with the words “Don’t Tread On Me,” blue-backed flags that read “Trump 2024,” and an arrangement of rainbow colors that fly atop a pole. 

It is a discussion of the flag with the rainbow pattern that this week brought a group of Milton area residents on a sun-filled June afternoon to the brick compound that serves as the seat of town government. The rainbow Pride flag, which stands on private property, was torn down by vandals last week. It was not the first time.    

“We call upon the Milton Supervisor and Council members to express their solidarity and opposition to hate,” said Martha Iacolucci, a long-time resident of the community who also serves as the chair of the town Democratic Committee. “I have lived here for 39 years and a lot has changed, mostly for the positive, and we would like the positive to continue happening.”

Iacolucci was joined by Minita Sanghvi and Joe Seeman - Democrat candidates for State Senate, and Assembly, respectively – and local residents to ask the Milton Board to allow for the raising of the Pride flag on town property. 

The group said the tearing down of the rainbow flag flown on private property in Milton are the actions of a hate crime targeting the LGBTQ+ community and are calling on elected officials to publicly denounce the act and demonstrate their support for inclusivity. 

“Tearing down the Pride flag isn’t a partisan issue,” said Sanghvi. “Everyone should feel safe in their community, everyone should feel safe in their home…as attacks on LGBTQ community are rising around the country, we need our community to stand up and be allies.” 

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program in late 2023 revealed a 13.8 percent increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation compared to date of the previous year, and a 32.9 percent hike in those targeting gender identity.

 “Repeatedly tearing down a Pride flag on private property is not just ordinary vandalism,” added Seeman, referring to the incident as an act of destruction to intimidate against all who support equal rights. “That’s an attack on decency and civility,” he said. 

In 2020, a Pride flag on display in the Milton park was stolen at least three times, according to a WRGB News 6 report.

In May 2022, the five-member town board approved a resolution stipulating that only the U.S. flag, state Government flags, U.S. military and veteran flags, and state Militia flags be allowed to be flown on town property. 

In Milton, Town Supervisor Scott Ostrander serves as the town’s Chief Executive Officer and presides over the Town Board, which is an elected body that votes on matters concerning the town.

“In ’22…we saw an increasing number of groups coming forth at that point, so in order for us not to offend anyone we thought it was best that we would fly only the American flag, the state flag and the military flag to not leave anybody out,” Ostrander told Saratoga TODAY on June 18, shortly following the county Board of Supervisors monthly meeting in Ballston Spa.

The most recent Pride flag torn down was flown on Rowland Street on private property offered by a resident because the town wouldn’t allow it to be flown on public property. 

“My suggestion is if you’re having a problem with people destroying it, obviously somebody’s offended by your flag or whatever what they’re doing it for I don’t have a reason for it, I suggest she puts a camera up, she’s going to catch who’s doing it, and turn it over to the authorities,” Ostrander said.    

Some neighboring communities such as the city of Saratoga Springs and the village of Ballston Spa hold Pride flag raising ceremonies in June at their respective city and village halls. By comparison, some residents of Milton view their town’s measure as specifically prohibitive and would like to see it changed. The Milton Town Board next meets on June 26. 

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