The Massachusetts State Flag. (Kim Tunnicliffe/WBZ NewsRadio)
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we wrote that the Cambridge City Council voted to remove the flag from city buildings. As of Wednesday afternoon, no such vote has been scheduled.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — One of the largest cities in Massachusetts is taking a stand against the Massachusetts State Flag, saying it glorifies the genocide of Native Americans.
The Cambridge City Council voted this week to unanimously co-sponsor a policy letter from the city's mayor, Marc McGovern, supporting a statewide bill that would create a commission to look into redesigning the flag.
City Coucilor Quinton Zondervan told WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe he believes the flag is insulting to Native Americans.
"It's racist, and it's a reminder to native people of their oppression and the fact that we are living on stolen land," he said. "I have to physically restrain myself from getting up and removing it."
The question was raised of whether or not the council had the authority to remove the flag from city buildings, but McGovern's office said it was not acted upon.
The flag displays the State Seal, which features an Algonquin Native American with bow and arrow. Above him is a bent arm holding a broadsword, and below him a banner reading "Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem"—a Latin phrase meaning "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty."
WBZ NewsRadio's Ben Parker spoke to Mayor McGovern about the flag.
"When you look at the flag, and I don't think many people look at it maybe as often as they should, it's a violent image," McGovern said. "It is a sword over the head of a Native American, symbolizing and depicting the genocide that happened, the killings that happened. We should be better than that in Massachusetts. That's not something we should be glorifying."
Cambridge resident Jeff McCloud told Tunnicliffe he agrees wholeheartedly.
"Just awful depiction," he said of the flag. "It's time to not change history, but rethink how we look at our history."
Another resident said she did not agree, saying it would be offensive to take the flag down or change the state seal.
"We are a nation that was founded, whether we want to believe it or not, by Native Americans, and to take that heritage off of a state flag that symbolizes a great number of us who have that kind of heritage is insulting," she said.
McGovern said he doesn't want to erase that history, and had a message for those who oppose a redesign.
"We cannot be afraid of re-evaluating our culture," he said. "We've done it all the time. There was a time when slavery was okay. Eventually, we said it wasn't. There was a time when interracial marriage was illegal. We said that's not okay. There was a time when women couldn't vote. We said that's not okay. Culture changes and evolves. That's not something we should fight—that's something we should be proud of."
"I've gotten some emails from folks who have said you're trying to erase the white culture," he added. "That is absurd."