Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
On June 17th, the St. Louis Park City Council voted 5-0 to get rid of the Pledge of Allegiance. On July 15th, just as the abolition was set to take effect, the Council voted 7-0 in a room crowded with American flags and red, white and blue signs, to bring the Pledge back. Outside a giant inflatable bald eagle kept watch.
It was an unlikely victory for patriotism in an implausible place.
St. Louis Park is a small Democrat city in Minnesota. Hillary Clinton beat Trump here 3-1. Rep. Ilhan Omar represents it in the House. The firm at the center of her tax and marriage scandal is based here.
Councilwoman Anne Mavity, who had called for the abolition of the pledge, insisted that the pledge didn’t reflect the city’s diverse values. As part of those diverse values, she had endorsed Rep. Omar.
“Omar,” Councilwoman Mavity had said, was a voice for an “unapologetic progressive agenda.”
Mavity never did apologize. But at least one member of the St. Louis Park City Council did.
“I’ve concluded that I made a mistake and I’m sorry and I’m asking for forgiveness,” Councilman Steve Hallifan conceded.
The Battle of the Pledge was won by a combination of committed local patriots, who came flying flags and eager to confront the councilmembers who had tried to sneak the issue past everyone by tying it together with a meeting time change and some other procedural minutiae, and by President Trump’s willingness to take on a local issue in a place most people outside Minnesota had never heard of
The City Council had wanted to never hear the Pledge again. Instead its members were forced to listen to patriots chanting it over and over again. Even as the Council attempted to begin its order of business, the Pledge was chanted by the audience accompanied by calls for the councilmembers to stand up.
When Councilwoman Margaret Rog claimed that the protests had endangered the “mental health” of our “wonderful staff”, an audience member shouted, “We pay your salaries.”
One by one, the members of the St. Louis Park City Council announced their surrender, some, like Mavity, Rog and Brausen, in a surly and combative manner, others, like Halifan, humbly.
An army of women, men and children, waving flags of all sizes, and dressed in red, white and blue, had descended on the St. Louis Park City Council. There was red, white and blue eye makeup and necklaces. A giant inflatable bald eagle wearing a banner, “Save the Pledge” wobbled back and forth on the grass. A convoy of red, white and blue jeeps flying flags delivered a petition from 3,000 people to the Council.
The pro-Pledge activists overwhelmed the St. Louis Park City Council by tapping into the protest toolbox so often used by wealthy lefty radicals, but so rarely employed by the country’s silent middle class. The protesters understood the value of symbolism and of disruption. They disrupted Council meetings with impromptu Pledge of Allegiance recitations. They brought children waving flags and veterans holding up Iwo Jima banners. There were Scouts in attendance and lots of American flag clothing.
They captured the narrative, seized the momentum, and won.
St. Louis Park City officials had insisted that all the trouble was caused by folks from out of town. Their position is that there are no Republicans, conservatives or patriots in St. Louis Park.
When Mayor Jake Spano met with Rep. Ilhan Omar, he told her that a Women for Trump rally in the city was mostly the work of outsiders meant to harass Omar in her own district.
But if the councilmembers really thought that the community backed them, why did they back down?
In her remarks, Rog claimed that it would be a shame if the upcoming election was dominated by the singular issue of where the candidates stood on the Pledge of Allegiance.
It wasn’t the outsiders that the councilmembers feared. They didn’t want their radical leftist agenda to be hijacked by an issue on which there was much opposition to their position and little support for it.
It was a tactical retreat.
The Democrats on the City Council had tested the mettle of their community and realized that it was not quite ready to toss away the Pledge of Allegiance, take a knee for the Anthem, and burn the flag.
Councilmembers repeatedly attempted to excuse their abandonment of the Pledge on the grounds of diversity and inclusivity.
“We concluded that in order to create a more welcoming environment to a diverse community we’re going to forgo saying the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting,” Councilman Tim Brausen, who had requested the vote, had argued.
The nature of these diverse groups, often also referred to as non-citizens, was left undiscussed.
Some critics of the Pledge ban had tied the move to Rep. Ilhan Omar. While St. Louis Park is in her district, there’s no direct evidence of that. But Omar and the Pledge ban may be products of the same demographic forces reshaping St. Louis Park, Hennepin County, and Minnesota.
St. Louis Park has a growing Somali Muslim population. Last year, in the same room where council members voted to junk the Pledge of Allegiance, two Somali Muslim community organizers had received an award from the city’s Human Rights Commission.
The police department’s Multicultural Advisory Committee, aside from its generic activities, hosts an annual Iftar dinner. The St. Louis Park public schools have a Somali liaison and a Somali page.
Councilmembers had claimed that the Pledge needed to go for the sake of diversity.
The Pledge has no conflicts with diversity. But some Muslims do object to it on religious grounds. A pledge in Islam can be legally binding. And, as IslamicWeb puts it, “The Pledge of Allegiance of Muslims is only to Allah.” It adds that, “any person who makes his Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of his country, he is legally responsible to defend that country according to what the political leaders decide. The leaders may decide to invade other countries and commit all types of injustices, atrocities, and crimes.”
CAIR has argued that Islam forbids act of reverence for anyone but Allah, and that Muslims may choose to “opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance”. Other Muslim scholars have argued that the Pledge can be recited with the mental reservation that Muslims are not contravening the sovereignty of Allah, and, thereby, Islamic law.
While Muslim terrorists are able to deceive under Taqiyya to accomplish Islamic goals, they prefer not to break oaths and pledges if they can avoid it. Osama bin Laden had even become upset when learning that Faisal Shahzad, the first Times Square bomber, had admitted to breaking his citizenship oath.
Muslims are the likeliest group in St. Louis Park for whom diversity would conflict with the Pledge.
St. Louis Park City Council members had hoped to accommodate their own distaste for the country, and that of a growing migrant refugee demographic, but instead drew a backlash from the city’s Americans.
Americans fought the Battle of the Pledge in St. Louis Park and struck a blow for patriotism in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s own backyard. They did it by drawing on the same tools with which lefties have won so many battles, they organized, radicalized, personalized, symbolized, disrupted, and they won a battle.
As Rep. Ilhan Omar and the open disdain of the City Council of St. Louis Park show, the war goes on.
The challenge for the patriots and activists will be mobilizing that momentum to continue the fight.