Gilmore returned this year to ask for the flag to be flown, but this time he was told “no” because there had never been another flag flown on this pole since its construction over 100 years ago.
“Never was [that] reason given then or in meetings this year as the only flag ever flown there was the US Flag.” said Gilmore about last year’s denial.
“When we inquired in person about such we were simply told it was a dead issue and to move on,” said Gilmore about this year’s pursuit. “Nothing else has ever been offered by the City last year or this year.”
“All we asked for then and all we have ASKED for now is something to symbolize a new element of our weekend,” he said. “We weren’t asking for beyond equal anything- and we weren’t the ones who came up with the idea to use the main flag pole to start with. The CITY DID.”
“That’s the only flag that’s ever going to fly on that flagpole,” Assistant Roanoke City Manager Brian Townsend told Roanoke.com about attempts to raise the flag this year. The flag pole was first erected on Flag Day in 1914 and the city said it’s only ever flown the American Flag since. ”And anyone else that ever asks, that’s going to be the answer.”
(Attempts by GayRVA to reach Roanoke City officials were not returned by press time, but this story will be updated after that contact has been made)
“We understand and respect the 104 year tradition of the main flag pole in Elmwood Park,” said Gilmore, but he stressed the issues he was facing now, and the backlash from the community his group has faced since Roanoke.com broke the story, is about something more than just raising a flag.
“We do not respect the way the City has handled and is handling this as well as not helping seek resolutions or accepting our offer of help in reaching resolution which would not only benefit our organization, but individuals, groups and organizations throughout this area year round,” he said.
Comments on the Roanoke.com story show a less official form of dissent against the flag.
Cliff Carter, of Unionville, VA, a small rural town about two hours from Roanoke, said “The gays have taken a besutiful [sic] symbol of God and made it ugly.”
Patrick Sims, a resident of Roanoke, agreed with Carter saying it “Seems like making a big stink until they get their way is normal ops [sic] for the gay community.”
Last year’s request was met with a kind of compromise – the City allowed rainbow flags to fly above the amphitheater stage with additional smaller flags attached to light poles and places around the park.