A Democrat politician in Connecticut is facing calls to resign after she took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance to protest President Trump’s recent summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Haddam Selectwoman Melissa Schlag was seen on video kneeling during the pledge at a Board of Selectmen meeting on July 16, the same day that Mr. Trump, standing next to Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland, appeared to accept the Russian leader’s denials of US. election meddling.
“I felt nervous when I did it but I also felt powerful,” Ms. Schlag, 43, told the Hartford Courant. “If I don’t speak up, those who can’t won’t be heard.”
The act of protest sparked an uproar in the small town, with veterans groups planing to attend the next Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday. First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo said the response was so strong that the meeting had to be moved from the town hall to a nearby firehouse so it can accommodate the crowd.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst, the former mayor of Trumbull, Conn., slammed Ms. Schlag’s protest as disrespectful to the flag and the president.
“She needs to resign immediately,” Mr. Herbst said on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday. “One of the things the flag stands for — it stands for our freedom, it stands for our democracy. It stands for the fundamental ideal that we can have differences of opinion, but we all stand in respect of our flag because many people, including my 93-year-old grandfather who’s a veteran, fought in defense of the very liberty that the flag resembles.”
Ms. Milardo called Ms. Schlag’s refusal to stand during the pledge a “selfish act of attention.”
“It is unfortunate that Melissa has decided to use a Haddam Board of Selectmen meeting as her only forum for her own personal interests. The flag does not represent a president or issue you take exception to, it represents our nation and freedom that others have defended for the rest of us,” Ms. Milardo told The Middletown Press.
Ms. Schlag posted a two-page letter on Facebook, titled “Dear America,” that explained her actions.
“He took the word of a terrorist dictator over United States intelligence agencies and interfered with the one thing I hold dear. Out of all of the issues that I knelt for on Monday, it’s for our democracy. Without that, we are not America,” she wrote.
“I don’t kneel because I hate my country, I kneel because I love my country. I don’t kneel to disrespect veterans or the flag, I kneel to respect what they fought so hard for. Without that, we have nothing and they fought for nothing and we’ve lost everything,” she added.
Her post garnered more than 700 comments as of Wednesday afternoon. To Ms. Schlag, the backlash is evidence of a divided country.
“The vitriol that has been displayed on Facebook over the past two days, and on my Selectman page across Facebook, is proof that this country is so divided, but screaming at people from behind a keyboard does not get us anywhere,” she told a local NBC affiliate.
She said she intends to continue kneeling for the pledge during future meetings.
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