Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Waianae center director
says policy led to
U.S. flag’s removal

By B.J. Reyes

Politics did not play a role in the decision to remove displays of the American flag from the Waianae Coast Community Mental Health Center, the clinic's executive director said.

Hayden Burgess, a Hawaiian sovereignty activist, said he ordered employees to remove the flag from public areas because the center's accessibility policy prohibits the display of any symbol or emblem that may carry political, religious or racial messages.

"We are required to remove all physical and psychological barriers from service, and I've instructed people that there are people in the (Waianae) community who do not align themselves with the American government," Burgess said. "As a mental health provider, our first mission is to provide service for everyone and not allow politics to act as a barrier.

"I have to note that there are many in this area who do not have allegiance to the U.S. government, and if any of them need services, I've got to be available for them ... irrespective of their political allegiance."

Burgess said the center normally does not fly any flags, not even the Hawaiian flag, and the order to remove American flags was issued after some employees displayed them following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Media reports about the center's decision prompted calls both for and against the decision, Burgess said.

"I've had some threats on my life, but other people call and they support it," he said.

State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae-Makaha) said she disagrees with Burgess's characterization of the community.

"He has the right to speak for himself, but don't paint the whole community with that sentiment, because that's not how the community feels," Hanabusa said.

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