St. Louis Park reinstates Pledge of Allegiance at meetings amid protest

A protester, who did not make it into council chambers, says the Pledge of Allegiance before a St. Louis Park City Council meeting on Monday. Some of the approximately 100 protesters made it into the council chambers, while the rest filled the lobby and cheered throughout the meeting. Evan Frost | MPR News

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The St. Louis Park City Council voted unanimously Monday night to reinstate its practice of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings, after drawing the ire of right-wing media outlets and some conservatives including President Trump.

At a raucous meeting Monday, council members voted to set aside their agenda and address the pledge controversy right away. City workers had received threatening and harassing messages and phone calls from people across the country who were angered by the council's vote last month to stop saying the pledge at meetings.

Tired of the attention and concerned for city staff, the council reversed itself.

"This circus needs to end," councilmember Margaret Rog said.

The St. Louis Park city council and Mayor Jake Spano, center, vote unanimously to resume saying the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings inside of St. Louis Park city hall on Monday. Evan Frost | MPR News

Protesters — many wearing American flags and Trump hats or shirts — frequently interrupted the councilmembers. One man yelled, "crybaby," and others mocked Rog as she expressed concern for the mental health of city staff.

Others yelled sexist remarks at women on the council and appeared to question one councilmember's military service.

The council's initial 5-0 vote was limited in scope: Council meetings would begin without a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The point was to make meetings welcoming to people who may not want to say the pledge.

• Earlier: Despite Trump's outcry, St. Louis Park locals not so fired up on pledge debate

Four custom Jeep "Radicons" blasting patriotic music roll slowly in front of St. Louis Park city hall while protesters gather outside. Evan Frost | MPR News

But the national media, right-wing blogs and the president's Twitter latched onto the story. Trump tweeted, "Patriots are now having to fight for the right to say the Pledge of Allegiance."

The vote didn't take away anyone's rights to say the pledge; it simply removed it from the council's regular agenda.

"I want the option to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't think that they have the right to take that away from me," protester Marni Hockenberg said.

When told the council's initial decision wouldn't take away anyone's right to say the pledge, she said "there's not very many people would" say it at meetings if it wasn't as a group.

That won't be an issue at future meetings. The council appeared eager to get past this issue and back to work.

St. Louis Park resident Sue Cornelius holds a sign in support of her city council members. Evan Frost | MPR News

"We do need to become one nation, indivisible," council member Tim Brausen said. "So please join us in working on it."

After St. Louis Park's council members decided to reinstate the pledge, they took a 10-minute break as protesters and reporters filed out.

First item on the agenda, after roll call, was a retirement recognition for a city naturalist.

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