New York Governor Cuomo Bans Sale of Confederate Flag, Swastikas and Other ‘Hate Symbols’ on State Property
Daily Mail, December 17, 2020
Confederate flags, swastikas and other ‘hate symbols’ have been banned at state buildings and events in New York after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new bill into law.
The law, which is effective immediately, is intended to counter the spread of racist and anti-Semitic behavior and ideology, which Cuomo called an ‘American cancer’.
Public display of the symbols will only be permitted if in an educational or historical context.
But Constitutional experts have raised concerns that it may be struck down for violating the First Amendment.
The Confederate flag, first adopted by the Confederate states in 1861 during the American Civil War, is seen by many as a symbol of white nationalism.
New York is the latest state to make changes in the area of social justice following the death of the unarmed black man George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis in May, sparking a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the US.
Following the bill signing on Wednesday, Cuomo, said: ‘This country faces a pervasive, growing attitude of intolerance and hate — what I have referred to in the body politic as an American cancer’, as reported in The New York Post.
He continued: ‘By limiting the display and sale of the confederate flag, Nazi swastika and other symbols of hatred from being displayed or sold on state property, including the state fairgrounds, this will help safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-installing effects of these abhorrent symbols.’
He added that ‘certain technical changes’ might be necessary to avoid infringing on US citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of speech, as protected by the First Amendment.
Floyd Abrahms, a noted First Amendment lawyer, said that Cuomo may be facing a longer battle rather than a swift, ‘technical’ fix.
He said: ‘Governor Cuomo is correct that the First Amendment may require changes in the law in light of the First Amendment. A private entity can choose to sell or not sell offensive symbols but when the government bans the sale of offensive, but constitutionally protected symbols, on its property the First Amendment comes into play.’
A Cuomo spokesman said the governor’s legal team will be reviewing the bill in consultation with the state Legislature to make a possible amendment.
Maya Moskowitz, press secretary of bill sponsor state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, said; ‘There’s going to be a chapter amendment that limits the prohibitions at the state fair, to ensure that we are respecting the protections that the Supreme Court has recognized for individuals and vendors at state fairs to exercise their First Amendment rights.’
Last month Mississippi revealed a new design for its state flag which was the last one in the nation that included a Confederate symbol.
In July General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a de-facto ban of the symbol on all US military bases, calling it ‘divisive’.
President Trump later defended the flag as a proud symbol of the South.