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Fort Kent councilors vote to stop flying banners that ‘dishonor’ U.S. flag

Fort Kent town councilors voted unanimously on July 10 not to rehang 135 banners like this one after this summer because they do not accurately depict the U.S. flag in mirror image on either side. (Jessica Potila)

FORT KENT, Maine — Banners depicting the U.S. flag will fly for their last season on light poles along Main Street in Fort Kent.  

 

Councilors voted unanimously on July 10 not to rehang the 135 banners, which have flown every summer since 2011, after they are taken down this fall.

Councilor Joey Ouellette, who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1994-1998 said during the last regular council meeting that the banners are not accurate because they do not depict the flag in mirror image on either side.

“It’s dishonoring to the flag and our country and what it stands for,” he said. “People gave their lives for it and displaying [the flag] incorrectly is dishonoring them as well.”

When reached by phone Monday at her New Jersey home, Greta Laferriere Martin, the Fort Kent native who spearheaded and funded much of the initial effort to purchase the banners, said she was not aware of the council’s decision. She said it was “very underhanded and very disrespectful” for the council to take the action without notifying her and offering her an opportunity to share her feelings.

Martin helped secure $5,000 in donations and used $15,000 of her own money to buy the 135 banners and brackets in 2011 as a way to show patriotism in her hometown ten years after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Three-thousand Americans died; it was horrible. This is something that I can’t forget,” she said of 9/11.

She added that in purchasing the flag banners, she wanted to spread American patriotism throughout this border town and honor the many veterans in the community.

“I graduated from high-school in 1956. I knew many young men back then who went to war and were never recognized,” she said.

Ouellette said a few days after the vote that many veterans in town have expressed to him their dissatisfaction with the banners. He said they need not be actual flags to be offensive.

“A picture of our president is not our president, but if we were to hang a picture of him upside down on our street poles, that would be a bit disrespectful,” he said.

Martin said she expects to return to Fort Kent within the next two weeks and plans to fight the council’s decision, but if councilors ultimately refuse to rehang the flags in Fort Kent she will donate them elsewhere.

“Many communities will be honored to have them in their towns,” she said.

Ouellette said last week that he welcomes input from community members about raising money to replace the flag banners.

“I absolutely love our flag and how nice it is when it is displayed. I served in the military and would do anything to protect it,” he said. “I hope that anyone who reads this article who wants to help find a way to replace them ASAP, please reach out to me. I want correctly displayed banners back up — likely as much as anyone else.”

Martin said that the cost to have the banners printed in mirror image would have been twice as much.

“If he can raise $40,000, let him go for it,” she said. “I challenge them to make it better than what I’ve done. This Joey Ouellette sounds like he’s wet behind the ears. I am 79-years-old. I’m way ahead of him.”

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