After ‘heated’ meeting, North Andover approves permit to fly Palestinian flag on town common

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — A request for a permit to raise a Palestinian flag on the North Andover Town Common was approved Monday night.

The flag, which was raised Tuesday morning, will remain up until December 7.

At a select board meeting, which had previously been rescheduled due to “threats of litigation as well as public safety concerns,” residents spoke passionately in both defense and opposition to the flag.

“A lot of tension, a lot of opposition,” Salma Boulal, who attended the meeting, said. “If Israel gets their flag to fly in the North Andover common then Palestinians deserve that same right.”

“It was pretty heated...there are those that look at the Palestinian flag as a symbol of hate,” Brian Buzby said.

There was a large police presence at the meeting as a precaution.

North Andover Town Manager Melissa Rodrigues said the application for flying the Palestinian flag was submitted on October 16, just 6 hours prior to the town updating its flag policies.

“The prior flag policy specifically allowed a Town resident to submit an application to fly a flag on the Town’s flagpole, resulting in that flagpole being considered a public forum,” she explained. “The content or the subject matter of a flag cannot be considered when reviewing an application presented under the old policy.”

The new policy which has since been enacted in North Andover limits the use of the flagpole to statements of governmental speech only, consistent with US Supreme Court decision Shurtleff v. Boston.

“According to the decision in the Shurtleff case, the Town may not prohibit a flag to be flown based on its content, its meaning or its message,” Rodrigues wrote. “This limitation on the Select Board’s discretion indicates that denial of a resident’s flag application under the prior policy places the Town in jeopardy of legal action.”

An Israeli flag has been flying in the North Andover Town Common since early October, right around when Hamas launched its attack on Israel.

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