Peoria orders car dealer to remove U.S. flag display

By Marty Sauerzopf
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 28, 2002

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Poll: Should American flags be exempt from cities' bans on flying pennants?

Jason Simpson has heard about homeowners associations ordering residents to remove American flags. But he never thought he would get such an order from the government.

That's what happened last week, however, when a Peoria code inspector gave Simpson until Friday to remove more than 100 miniature flags dangling above the vehicles of his downtown car lot.

"It's just the principle of the thing," said Simpson, a Peoria resident and owner of Peoria Auto Sales near 82nd and Grand avenues. "I've never heard of such a thing, people telling you to take down an American flag. And this is a government telling me, not a homeowners association."

But Peoria officials said the flags, which are hanging from ropes strung above the lot, are really just small pennants, which are banned by the city sign code. City spokesman Kelly Corsette said the code is designed to "reduce the visual clutter."

"We appreciate the fact someone's trying to be patriotic," Corsette said. "That's not something we're against. But there's a proper and respectful way to display the flag."

Corsette said the pennants on Simpson's lot not only fly in the face of city regulations, but also appear to be an advertising ploy - something considered a no-no by the U.S. Flag Code.

Simpson said he put up the miniature flags after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year and spent $1,100 to replace them a few months ago because they were becoming frayed. He said the display is a patriotic statement, and they have never attracted more business to the lot.

"We just never took ours down like everybody else," he said. "God forbid, if two buildings were crashed into tomorrow, would they be OK again?"

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