In response to incidents of firefighters on Long Island displaying Confederate flags in a firehouse and on a firetruck, Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law Tuesday that banned the flag along with anything else New York’s leaders might consider offensive from any form of public property.
Another flag was hung inside of the Levittown Fire Department, according to Patch.
New York already banned what it called hate symbols from state property. The new law expands that law to every possible form of public agency, including towns, cities, villages, fire districts, volunteer fire companies and police departments.
“The recent and disgusting rise in racist, homophobic, and hateful behavior will never be tolerated in New York,” Hochul said in a statement.
“Symbols of hate have no use other than to spread ignorance and incite violence. As New Yorkers, we must remain united and actively fight to eradicate these attitudes, and this legislation bolsters those efforts. There is no reason for a symbol of hate to ever be on display, let alone by a police or fire department charged with protecting their community,” she said.
“With this law now signed, we aren’t only doing away with this deplorable behavior, but also ensuring that every New Yorker, no matter their background or identity, feels welcome in their community,” the governor said.
The bill says “‘symbols of hate’ shall include, but not be limited to, symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazi ideology or the battle flag of the Confederacy.”
The ban has an exemption for cases where “the image is in a book, digital medium, museum, or otherwise serves an educational or historical purpose.”
The law further bans the sale of anything defined as a hate symbol by any level of government.
While New York banned the Confederate flag, others refuse to go along.
A parent of a Pennsylvania high school student said her daughter was subjected to racial intimidation for roughly five hours on Monday when two students showed up to school in Confederate flag clothing.
When the state law was approved by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, some said it could be vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge, according to NBC News.
“The First Amendment generally protects the expression of even hateful speech, and a statute banning the sale of materials expressing those views on state-owned land is highly likely to be held unconstitutional,” said attorney Floyd Abrams, who has argued frequently before the Supreme Court in First Amendment cases.
“The idea is to do it when people are trying to get in the gate,” said Johnny Wilson, 47, who drove a pickup sporting two Confederate flags.
Many say the flag represents their Southern heritage, not racial hatred.