Duvall city leaders are receiving backlash from queer activists over their dismantling of a long-standing “Pride Wall” downtown.
Mayor Amy Ockerlander defends the decision was made for safety, legal, and equity reasons. She says the appearance of a flag with a well-known white nationalist symbol prompted the takedown.
“I am disheartened to learn our community would be the victims of such actions that should be considered harassment and intimidation,” said Mayor Ockerlander. “Disgraceful displays of hate like this will not be tolerated in Duvall.”
Roughly a year ago, Carol Kufeldt, owner of Valley Mail commissioned the artwork. Local artist and queer activist Axton Burton says they spent fifteen hours lacing rows of ribbon through the fence around Kufeldt’s establishment.
“It was beautiful when it was up,” said Kufeldt. “The light would hit it and it literally glowed, it was gorgeous.”
The city claims they own the fence and that Valley Mail never received approval for the installation.
“After consideration and review by the City Council, myself, and City staff the City was required to take this action to remove all material from City owned fences and public right-of-ways last week,” said Mayor Ockerlander. “Our hope was to allow the Pride decorations to remain until such time as City Council could develop policy for decorations and displays in the right-of-way on a City-owned fence. Unfortunately, the City had to take swift action to remedy the immediate harms and risks to the community, staff, and public last week.”
Kufeldt acknowledges the challenges now facing the city but argues there’s a difference between free speech and hate speech. However, she believes Duvall officials are trying to do the right thing.
“They were stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Kufeldt. “This isn’t something small towns are prepared to deal with. All this hate speech that’s been emboldened.”
Burton was dismayed to see their creation go to waste. They felt blindsided by city officials, arguing the City acted too hastily.
“It has been excruciatingly painful and unfair in a myriad of ways,” said Burton. “I think it was very sudden. I think Duvall leadership may have been dealing with uncomfortable comments.”
The Mayor’s office reports they’re currently looking to install a permanent art piece in town that would honor the LGBTQ+ community.
On August 15 the city will consider revising its right-of-way policy. Council will meet on that day to determine what materials can and cannot be displayed in the City right-of-way like the fence in question. The public is invited to come and give their two cents.
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