Flags on poles OK'd for rally

Staff WriterApril 16, 2010 

— Tea party attendees got to wave their flags, both big and small Thursday, at the state Capitol rally, after getting an 11th-hour approval from a state official.

Earlier this week, tea partiers had been warned that they would have to rely on smaller, pole-less flags to make their points. A ban on flagpoles and signs with posts that could be turned into weapons was added in September to the permit that groups need to hold demonstrations on state-operated grounds.

But Reuben Young, secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, lifted the restriction Thursday out of concern that it could violate people's First Amendment rights.

"It's a victory for every North Carolina citizen to be able to fly their flag," said Laura Long, an Apex woman who organized the Tax Day tea party rally on behalf of Triangle Conservatives Unite. "Not just our event, but any event at the state Capitol."

The little-known rule banning posts and flagpoles was added because State Capitol Police Chief Scott Hunter worried that the increasing size of crowds at political protests could create dangerous situations.

But there haven't been any problems at previous tea party events, Long said.

Young's office plans to review the rule to see whether it should be modified or nullified, said Ernie Seneca, a spokesman for the agency.

"We want to make sure people are able to exercise their rights," Seneca said.

sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4622

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