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Abraham Wants Parade Resolution Rescinded
By West Kentucky Star Staff
PADUCAH - Paducah City Commissioner Richard Abraham wants the city to rescind its resolution that restricts participation in the Veteran's Day Parade.

At Monday's City Commission meeting, Abraham moved to throw out the resolution that was passed in May, saying it violated the rights of those who were not allowed to display flags honoring or representing anything other than the United States and all of its veterans. Commissioner Sandra Wilson asked for the item to be placed on the January 22nd meeting agenda, and also asked the staff to get a legal opinion regarding the resolution.

Abraham issued a press release on Thursday, saying he investigated the resolution, which was passed during a meeting he couldn't attend, and believes it violates freedom of speech established in the first amendment of the US Constitution. He came to this conclusion upon examination of the language of the resolution and conversations with a city attorney.

He said ongoing discussions about the resolution with the Sons of Confederate Veterans at subsequent meetings have been productive, but indicated that some folks in city hall may be enforcing the resolution improperly, based on misinformation or personal bias. 


Here is Abraham's press release in its entirety:

Unraveling the Tangled Facts

Fact: Last year a very large offensive sign, attacking a certain group,  was put up in our city. Upon advice from our city attorney we were told that we could NOT make the sign be removed.  First Amendment Rights were in play.

Fact:  November 11, 2018 Four different participants were told by city employees that they had to remove certain banners as they participated in the Veteran’s Day Parade. (two high schools, SCV and an honorable retired veteran.)

Fact:  Upon inquiry with our city attorney, I was told that that these two incidents were not different from one another.  This was alarming to me, since I was one of the 5 elected members of the Board of Commissioners for Paducah. We must not knowingly or willingly put our city in a position where we are violating the Rights of our Citizens as determined by the Government of the United States of America (December 15, 1791).

There was a city resolution referred to, when addressing these three groups of participants, in the November 11 parade.  I was NOT present for the passing of that resolution (as I was attending a service for the loss of a good friend).  I quickly, for the first time (I apologize for the lateness), read the resolution that our city employees referred to when asking the parade participants to remove their banners.  Upon reading, carefully, I was surprised to find NO REFERENCE to displaying flags or banners, within the resolution. The only particulars in the resolution referred to participants, not flags or banners.  

This situation was becoming more cloudy as I investigated. Our resolution did not refer to the display of flags or banners, but it was used to deny the display of certain flags and banners, by our city employees, who apparently had been led to believe they were in the right.  We, as a municipal, have no grounds to ban freedom of expression based upon the First Amendment, and even though there is no written reference to us banning any flags or banners, within the referenced resolution, the press and seemingly everyone else had been led to believe we had and that we did.

Fact: “ Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans—living or dead—…”(information from the History Channel)(emphasis mine)

To my thinking, we needed to begin, asap, to right this confusion. I decided to make a motion to dissolve the resolution we had quickly put together, regarding the November 11 parade.  Within days, we had a Commission meeting scheduled and after checking, once again with our city attorney and city clerk, I was informed that such a motion did not need to be on the agenda (a relief to me, given the short time before the meeting). 

I had a small window to contact fellow commission members as to my plans. I realize fellow members may want more notice, but in the name of “RIGHTING A WRONG”, time was of the essence, to me. I attempted to make contact with all members and had to leave messages for them. The ones who were able to return my calls were promptly informed of my intentions. 

Following, please read the references to the particulars of the Veteran’s Day Parade, taken from our resolution:
May 16, 2017
Veteran’s Day Resolution was passed.

“A RESOLUTION AFFIRMING AND ACCEPTING THE POSITION OF THE PADUCAH VETERANS DAY COMMITTEE THAT PARTICIPANTS IN THE VETERANS DAY PARADE BE LIMITED TO THOSE THAT REPRESENT THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE VETERANS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.” (emphasis mine)

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Board of Commissioners of the City of Paducah to accept and abide by the Resolution of the Veterans Day Committee to limit participation in the Veterans Day Parade to groups or individuals who represent, support and honor Veterans of the United States Armed Forces. This Resolution shall be in full force and effect from and after its adoption. 

Any Participants that have marched in this parade have marched under the authority and representation of the Flag of the United States. And they have marched honoring all Veterans.

FOR THE RECORD
(in the spirit of compassion and reconciliation)
“Confederate Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines that fought in the civil war were made U.S. Veterans by an ACT OF CONGRESS in 1957.  U.S. Public Law 85-425. SEC 410 Approved 23 May 1958”

Fact:  Within my first term of serving as a city commissioner, it was made clear to me that we could write ordinances and laws, unless it came in conflict with a higher law (state or federal). I could find no reference to the rescinding of U.S. Public Law 85-425. SEC 410

Therefore, we have no right to violate First Amendment Rights to anyone, as a Municipal.  

I have been in conversations with members of SCV, who have acted as gentlemen through this whole issue.  They are sensitive to the fact that certain banners of their history were used in hate towards others. But our understanding was reached based on ‘reasoning together.’  This will no longer be an issue to this parade.

There was also a denial to an Honorable Veteran of the Vietnam war, for him to display his STATE Flag (which is allowed and recognized by the United States Government) during this past November 11 parade.  He currently is in Hospice and it breaks my heart that he was denied the right he fought for, to display his State Flag, as he participated in the Veterans day parade. He enlisted to serve our country as a citizen of the state of Mississippi. I suggest the city owes him, post haste, a letter of apology.

This whole journey has been fraught with twists and turns and personal opinions of people who were misinformed, in some instances, and seemingly biased, in others. We are stewards of our United States Government. We took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. We must protect the First Amendment as strongly as we guard the Fifteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. People’s lives are intertwined within the protection of our unique Governmental Structure. We need to rescind this unneeded resolution and continue on being the bright shining star on the river, of which I am so proud, Paducah, Kentucky.

Commissioner Richard Abraham

Published 08:27 PM, Thursday Jan. 10, 2019
Updated 10:08 AM, Monday Jan. 14, 2019

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