NY bans Confederate flags in fire and police departments, schools

ALBANY – Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed a bill banning the sale and display of “hate symbols” – such as Confederate flags and swastikas – on police and fire department property, as well as on school grounds.

“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 hatred have no use other than to spread ignorance and encourage violence,” the governor added. “As New Yorkers, we must remain united and actively fight to eradicate these attitudes, and this legislation strengthens these efforts.”

The new law applies to any municipal corporation in the state – including fire districts, voluntary fire departments, police departments and school districts – and reflects a similar law that came into force last year and which also banned the sale and display of hate symbols on state properties.

The legislation was introduced by Nassau County Democrat state senator Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages after a couple of incidents last year on Long Island.

A protester holds a Confederate flag behind an NYPD officer near the Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 23, 2019.
A protester holds a Confederate flag behind an NYPD officer near the Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 23, 2019.
Daniel William McKnight

In August 2020, a fire truck from the volunteer Brookhaven Fire Department in Suffolk County was decorated with a Confederate flag for a drive-by event in support of a local firefighter battling cancer.

The scene caused outrage and was condemned by the head of the department as well as the Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

In a separate incident, a Confederate flag was displayed in the window of a Nassau County fire department, according to Hochul’s office.

“One would think it was common sense that taxpayer-owned property could not be used as a platform for hatred, but shockingly, there was no law in the books that said that – until now,” Kaplan said in a statement.

The hate symbols are prohibited unless they serve “an educational or historical purpose”, such as pictures in a book or displayed in a museum, under the law.

The new law came into force immediately.


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