The sleepy town of Haddam — with a population in the range of just 8,000 — has been swept up in the heated national anthem protest debate, as Selectman Melissa Schlag continues to take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance at Board of Selectmen meetings.
Schlag’s act of civil disobedience, which began in July, is meant to show her disapproval of President Donald Trump’s policies.
Not surprisingly, Schlag has received a great deal of blowback.
Some have called on her to resign, and the Democrat said she has received threats.
At Monday’s selectmen meeting, Schlag faced jeers while she kneeled during the pledge.
Before the meeting, about 100 people rallied in town to decry the protest. Meanwhile, a crowd of about 75 gathered in support of Schlag.
Haddam resident Pablo Arroyo, a Marine, said the selectman should protest on her own time.
But Vietnam veteran and town resident Bob Wallin sees it differently. He said no one has a right to tell her how and when to exercise free speech.
Americans have been debating these types of protests in much this way since 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, then a back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began taking a knee to draw attention to social injustice in the U.S.
Other NFL players have followed his lead, and it appears likely that the protests will continue this season.
While many Americans are OK with the silent protests, viewing them as a First Amendment issue, others find them to be disrespectful, President Donald Trump among them.
Many Haddam residents feel the same.
But Schlag says she is not backing down. In a letter posted on social media, she states, “As long as Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States, I will kneel.”
Whether such protests are a good way to send a message is certainly debatable. But we could all agree that citizens have the right to make a peaceful political statement.
This is America, after all.