In the pouring rain about two dozen Tea Party Patriots raised the Gadsden Flag Friday and singled Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, out as public enemy number one.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Walter Lee watched the proceeding from inside the Capitol and said the decision not to raise the flag was his, and his alone. He said he consulted with Legislative Management to better understand the history of the flag policy, but that was it.
Lee had approved the request to fly the Gadsden Flag over the state Capitol until he learned the group that made the request would be using it to promote their candidates.
When it became a political event, is when Lee pulled the plug.
But Lawlor’s comments in the Hartford Courant and several radio programs Thursday drew the attention of the Tea Party faithful.
Joe Markley of Southington, who is running for his old Senate seat in November, said “Mike Lawlor whose been a public nuisance for 25 years has got to go in this election.”
“He has stood up and made himself a target,” Markley said of Lawlor. “He’s going to be target number one of the Tea Party movement statewide.”
Markley said the group would keep trying to fly the Gadsden Flag over the state Capitol.
C. Duffy Acevedo of Branford contended that the Gadsden Flag should be the state flag.
“I call Mickey Lawlor to task to debate us today,” Acevedo, whose running for the Republican nomination for governor, said. “Mickey Lawlor’s gotta go. God save East Haven.”
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, who was also in attendance Friday morning, said he wanted to thank Rep. Lawlor for demonstrating to the state “why we need fundamental change in Hartford.”
In a phone interview Friday Lawlor said he had nothing to do with the decision to pull the flag. He said he spoke with the Courant about the history of the flag policy, which again he was not involved in. During that conversation he opined that based on the press release promoting the event it was “inappropriate.”
He said he didn’t agree with the flying of the Rainbow Flag in 1999 and doesn’t agree the flag adopted by any political movement should be flown over the Capitol.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to be flying political flags,” Lawlor said.
The Gadsden Flag that says ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ has become associated with the Tea Party movement.
If the Marine Corps had asked for the Gadsden Flag to be flown then Lawlor would have no problem with it, but the Tea Party Patriots were going to use the flying of Gadsden Flag to hold a press conference and announce their candidates.
Tanya Bachand, state coordinator for the CT Tea Party Patriots said in a phone interview Thursday evening that she was surprised by the controversy the historical military flag has caused.
“I don’t know when liberty and personal freedom became so controversial,” Bachand said.
She admitted the group may have over stepped its bounds by holding a press conference in addition to the flag raising ceremony, but believes the flag that’s been around for 200 years should be flown.
She said it looks like the police will have to rewrite the flag policy because it seems to matter now who makes the request.
The flag policy was changed in 1999 after the controversy created by the raising of the Rainbow Flag, which has become a universal symbol for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender rights activists.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he was perplexed by how the decision to not fly the flag was made. After speaking with Legislative Management, Cafero was told a House Democrat made a complaint about the flying of the flag and until then it wasn’t an issue.
Cafero believes the flag met the criteria and should have been flown. He said the state needs to review the policy, which should be based on the flag and not the reaction to it.