In a video being published by savenewbritain.com it is shown that a security guard in front of New Britain City Hall removed American flags from the hands of residents who were walking in to protest against a $150 fee to landlords.
The videographer, Karol Steczkowski, questions the guard as to why he is taking away the flags. The guard responds that he is doing his job.
Veteran’s groups and residents have commented on the savenewbritain.com website and the Facebook page of the New Britain City Journal that they are disgusted by the treatment of the flags.
Gregory Glass, a Marine Corp Veteran states on the website that, “words fail to convey my anger at this display of disrespect to our Country, our Flag and our veterans who fought and died for that flag. This will NOT go unchallenged! As a United States Marine Corp veteran, I will contact every single Veterans group in America if necessary. These Gestapo punks will answer for this!”
A person on the New Britain City Journal Facebook group stated, “I am disgusted by this. I was there outside and had no idea that this was happening inside.I am a democrat and am very disappointed in my elected officials. Can’t wait for the next election!”
Another said, “My tax dollars being used to hire security guards to confiscate American Flags and then desecrate the honor and patriotism that they represent. I’m disgusted with Mayor (Phil) Sherwood- (Tim) O’Brien. For the sake of New Britain, resign Mayor. You are tearing this city apart.”
In the video, Steczkowski notes that one is even taken from a little girl and says the “weapon is freedom and Democracy. People died over that flag and the ability for us to wave that thing and we are taking them away from everybody.”
Steczkowski said his parents left Poland so they would not have to deal with this kind of behavior.
In a letter to Nicholas Mercier, president of the Connecticut Property Owners Association and Robert DeCosmo, president of the CT Property Owner Association, Police Chief James Wardwell said he was not sure why the flags were removed.
“The only additional security there that night was the police. There were two security guards there who are regular city employees. I see them in and around City Hall often. They are often patrolling the garage and the building.I will follow up with my Incident Commander for this event, but I imagine the officers asked this young guard who was working to assist them in collecting flags. I do not see any other reason for him to be standing there doing this so close to my officers. I do not think any order came from the Mayor’s Office.”
Sam Zherka, owner of Farmington Hills Apartments, said that when he heard the flags were being taken away, he questioned Phil Sherwood, deputy chief of staff to the mayor.
According to Zherka, Sherwood said flags, signs and placards would be confiscated.
“So I went to the lobby and watched as they confiscated the flags. I asked the police and they were all very nice and not for taking the flags,” said Zherka. “I think they did a great job. Their directive did not come from the police. The directive came from Sherwood.”
The mayor’s office did not return emails from the City Journal to respond to this issue.
“In fairness to the Mayor, he had nothing to do with the operations plan. He is my boss, so I did have to inform him of what we were doing prior to the event. I would never allow a political influence to alter an operations plan anyway. That would fly in the face of safety,” Wardwell said in the letter. “I was told anywhere from 200-300 and up to 1000 could come. I had to prepare for the 1000. I believe due to capacities being reached inside and what I am told happened outside that we had 500 – 600 people there. What a credit to the organizers of the landlord/tenant group – there was no unruly behavior of significance (we have violence at ball games with less people).”
Police Officer Bob Stafford later saw the flags as they were left on the ground by security.
“He picked up the flags off the ground and put them in his pocket,” said Zherka. “I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to him because he understands what freedom means. The message this sends to mothers and fathers and sons and daughters who bled for our right to raise that flag is outrageous. And it is not attributed to the police department, but the mayor and Sherwood.”