2016-06-30 / Front Page

American Legion: Saco is slighting Old Glory

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer


The commander of a local American Legion doesn’t like that Saco’s downtown banner flies above the American flag and wants the city to do something about it. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) The commander of a local American Legion doesn’t like that Saco’s downtown banner flies above the American flag and wants the city to do something about it. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) BIDDEFORD/SACO – The American flags placed along Main Street in Saco have drawn criticism from the American Legion.

District 1 Cmdr. Jake Mulligan said that the placement of a seasonal welcome banner higher in height than the U.S. flag is a violation of the flag code. Mulligan said he sent a letter to Saco Main Street Executive Director Robert Biggs to point it out. Saco Main Street, a downtown revitalization organization, placed 68 flags along Main Street from Saco River to Beach Street.

Biggs said he received Mulligan’s letter, reviewed the flag code and discussed it with veteran members of his board of directors before sending a reply.

“We reviewed the flag code, which is an advisory code, it’s not a law so to speak, and it basically says there will be no pennant or flag to fly above the U.S. flag – no flags of a nation, country, state or municipality,” Biggs said. “This is basically a welcome sign. It doesn’t have the city logo. It’s a sign and not meant to be an insult.”

Mulligan said the Saco flags include Maine flags that are interspersed at the same height, and the seasonal banner is affixed at a height above both the U.S. and Maine flags.

“For a city and downtown association to do this, it’s just wrong,” Mulligan said. “The solution is for them to fix it.”

“I appreciated his advice and reviewed it with the veterans on our board, and they all found it was appropriate,” Biggs said.

Mulligan said he disagrees with Biggs’ interpretation that the welcome banners don’t qualify as a flag or pennant.

“A banner is a flag or another piece of cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message,” Mulligan said. “Nothing should be above the American flag.”

Biggs took a different view.

“There are different interpretations of what (the banner) is,” Biggs said. “If there was a Saco flag there, I’d totally get it.”

Biggs said there are flags in Biddeford along Elm Street that are not lit at night, as the code requires.

“None of these events in Biddeford or here are meant to be an insult. They’re meant to honor the people who have served,” he said.

Biggs said many communities line their streets with flags that aren’t lit at night, including Damariscotta, Bath and Boothbay Harbor.

“The message is stronger than any potential variance,” he said.

While he was putting up the flags, Biggs said a man stopped and saluted.

“He served in Korea and it made him feel proud,” Biggs said. “He didn’t say the flag was in the wrong place.”

Biggs said Mulligan has not yet responded to his reply. Mulligan said he believes the flags were placed as an honest mistake, but “when I called them on it, they didn’t want to deal with it.”

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