Wait, we flew the Alitos flag? San Francisco dismantles it.

Turns out, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s vacation home isn’t the only surprising place where a provocative flag has been adopted by Jan. On January 6, 2021, rioters flew recently.

For 60 years, San Francisco residents could have seen the flag in a public pavilion just steps from the mayor’s balcony at City Hall. The “Call to Heaven” flag was among 18 historic banners that flew across a central plaza in one of the nation’s most liberal cities, where fewer than 13 percent of voters supported former President Donald J. Trump in the 2020 elections.

Few people, including Mayor London Breed, made much of the white flag with a green pine tree. Until last week.

A San Francisco resident expressed concern that the “Call to Heaven” flag was flying over the city, after revelations in the New York Times that the same flag was flying outside Justice Alito’s vacation home on Long Beach Island. Critics said Justice Alito should have reused himself in cases related to Jan. 6 because of the flag’s association with the U.S. Capitol rioters who tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president .

MS. Breed ordered the flag removed and city workers replaced it Saturday with an American flag, according to Jeff Cretan, the mayor’s spokesman. A bronze plaque explaining the history of the flag was also removed from the flagpole.

The flag dates from the Revolutionary War and was flown on George Washington’s ships as a symbol of rebellion against the British. Above the tree, the white flag bears the words “An Appeal to Heaven” in black letters. It has been embraced in recent years by conservatives seeking to inject Christianity into the U.S. government, as well as by supporters of Mr. Trump and the “Stop the Steal” campaign — efforts deeply unpopular in San Francisco.

“Our responsibility is to represent the values ​​of our country and the city and county of San Francisco, and the values ​​of our city and county were not aligned with those of those who tried to overthrow the government,” said M. » said Crétois on Thursday.

In another era, San Francisco leaders had civic intentions when they installed the “Call to Heaven” flag on Flag Day in 1964. It was one of 18 flags flown as part of a historical exhibit dubbed the American Flag Pavilion, intended to showcase flags that played an important role in the country’s history.

Each flag was sponsored by a local nonprofit, and most of the original 18 have remained in place ever since. Nine flags fly from imposing white flagpoles on either side of a grand path connecting the Majestic City Hall and its iconic golden dome to the Main Library and Asian Art Museum across the square.

“There is a difference between choosing to raise the flag at this time and having the flag be a long-standing part of a historical display,” Mr. Cretan said.

Justice Alito was criticized not only because of the “Call to Heaven” flag, but also because his Virginia home flew an inverted American flag weeks after the January attacks. 6 – a symbol of distress that has also been adopted by Trump supporters. Justice Alito on Wednesday defended his decision not to recuse himself in two cases stemming from the Capitol attack because he said he had “nothing at all” to do with the flags, which he said , had been deployed by his wife, Martha-Ann.

It may surprise people to learn that San Francisco continued to fly the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag – a yellow banner with a coiled black rattlesnake that was also a symbol of defense against Great Britain during the war of independence. It became a symbol of the conservative Tea Party movement about 15 years ago and has been criticized by some for its racist overtones.

This flag was also carried by Trump supporters to the US Capitol in January. 6, 2021.

Mr. Cretan said flags and symbols have changed over time and the city would try to ensure the flags at Civic Center Plaza reflect current values. The mayor will decide whether more flags will be flown, but he will welcome comments from others, Mr. Cretois said.

The San Francisco exhibit contains mostly iterations of the American flag, to which stars were added as states joined the union. It also includes the California flag and the Texas Lone Star flag. Flags that today’s San Franciscans might feel more affinity for — like the rainbow pride flag supporting LGBTQ rights — are not part of the exhibit.

This is not the first time the pavilion has caused consternation in the city.

The original exhibit included a Confederate flag, which flew until a protester climbed the flagpole and destroyed it in 1984.

Dianne Feinstein, then mayor of San Francisco, briefly authorized its replacement with another Confederate flag before removing it permanently. This episode was cited by progressive school board members as justification for removing Ms. Feinstein’s name from a local elementary school in 2021. They agreed to change the names of 43 other schools as part of the same effort targeting historical individuals they found offensive, including Abraham Lincoln High School.

Three of the board members were removed from office in 2022 by voters frustrated by the renaming campaign and school closures during the pandemic. The name changes were dropped before the recall.

Ellen Schumer, City Hall historian, said she was not surprised that no one raised objections to the “Call to Heaven” flag until last week. She used to train her guides on the meaning of each flag during City Hall tours, but stopped after realizing that visitors didn’t seem to care about the flags on display.

“I guess if you’re a flag collector,” she said. “Other than that, there’s no point.”

On Thursday, children played on the Plaza’s playgrounds, a man in sports gear did tai chi and people in suits were buried in their phones as they rushed to their offices. Few seemed to glance at the flags, and security guards in the square said they never thought about the banners one way or the other.

Instead, the focus has been on preparing Civic Center Plaza for a very different type of event: a Saturday night rave featuring two DJs, Skrillex and Fred Again, expected to draw 20,000 partygoers under the flags.

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