WAXHAW, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Union County residents now have the right to fly first responder and military flags after a homeowners association asked residents to remove all flags that didn’t represent an official county.
Waxhaw resident Christopher Castrogiovanni has more than three decades of law enforcement experience including his time with the New York Police Department. He flies the Thin Blue Line flag in support and memory of his brothers in blue, some of whom lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“There’s a thin blue line between anarchy and civility and every time a cop is killed, that line gets thinner,” Castrogiovanni said. “I’ve lost quite a few friends over my 34 years, but 9/11 in particular, I lost three close friends. I went to 29 funerals and every day cops have been killed in this country.”
Earlier this year, Castrogiovanni was told to take down his flag. His HOA said it only allowed flags representing official countries in the Millbridge neighborhood.
“For you to tell me that I can fly it for 10 years and then take it away from me to honor my brothers and sisters. It was a kick in the gut to be quite honest with you,” Castrogiovanni said. “They did it to fire, EMS, not just me. So, I just represent one piece of first responders. There were other people or agencies that are just as thick and things as I am.”
He posted his frustration on Facebook. Jennifer Connor from Carolina Cruzin4Jeeps wanted to help. She organized a ride through the neighborhood — but didn’t stop there.
“It bothered me a lot that we were not standing by our police officers, especially ones that were at 9/11,” Connor said. “I mean that made me especially angry. So, I reached out to David Willis, who was a friend of mine and said, I want to write a bill. I want something to change. I’m not letting this go and David said, ‘Actually, Jen, I already have it.’”
North Carolina Rep. David Willis tried to encourage his constituents to work with the HOA for a resolution, when that didn’t work, he wrote a section addressing this issue in Senate Bill 68.
“It doesn’t say that the HOAs cannot eliminate [the flags] or restrict them altogether, but it has to be very specific on the language, and they have to call it out very specifically by branch of armed services and so forth,” Willis said. “So, they have to be very open and upfront about their desire to restrict those flags from the HOA.”
The law is tucked away in legislation that covers various local changes statewide including annexation, elections and parking.
“Sometimes the legislative process of sausage making as we call it in Raleigh gets a little bit messy,” Willis explained. “We ran this bill earlier on in the year and with it being a local bill. You know, sometimes instead of running five or six or 10 different bills, we just put them together in one.”
The law only applies to flags in Union County, but Castrogiovanni hopes it expands statewide.
“Somebody needs to make it a statewide thing,” Castrogiovanni said. “People have to get past what it may have been politicized as and see the deeper meaning behind each flag. That flag has been around since the 1960s. Long before any politics got involved in it.”