Anchorage assemblyman kneels during Pledge of Allegiance

Anchorage Assemblyman Patrick Flynn knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance at Tuesday night's Assembly meeting, which he said was in solidarity with a national movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality and social injustice.

Flynn also put his hand over his heart while he knelt and recited the pledge and also wore an American flag pin.

"Obviously I'm respectful of our community and our country, which is why I put my hand over my heart and knelt at the same time," Flynn said in a later interview.

Six West High School football players knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a football game on Sept. 17.

Flynn put up a post on his blog and on Facebook on Sunday asking for thoughts on whether or not he should kneel during Tuesday's Pledge of Allegiance. He said he started thinking about it after reading  a Seattle Times opinion piece that said white NFL players should kneel to support Kaepernick.

In the post, Flynn wrote that he was the only white student on his high school basketball team. He noted in the post that, as a downtown Anchorage Assemblyman, he represents two of the most diverse census tracts in the United States.

Flynn said his decision to kneel was "not specific to Anchorage."


"I do have great degree of respect for the Anchorage Police Department, I think they do a great job with a very diverse community," Flynn said. "But by the same token, I do realize there are people out there who feel their voices aren't being heard."

Assemblyman Bill Evans also wore a pin to Tuesday night's meeting, one he earned as an Army paratrooper. He knew Flynn was planning to kneel and said he wore his pin as a "counter-demonstration."

"It's a political statement of sorts, and it's unfortunately ambiguous, because people don't know exactly what it is you're protesting and what you're angry about," Evans said in an interview later of Flynn's decision to kneel.

Flynn said he hoped to encourage "productive" community discussion. He said he wasn't sure if he would take a knee again in a future meeting.

At the end of the Assembly meeting, Assemblywoman Amy Demboski criticized Flynn's actions.

"As a veteran, as somebody who supports law enforcement, as somebody who looks at the Pledge of Allegiance as something that honors the sacrifices made from men and women who have died defending our country, I find it disrespectful," Demboski said. "As an Assemblymember I find it disrespectful. This is a formal procedure."

She suggested Assembly leadership reprimand Flynn. Assembly chair Elvi Gray-Jackson said during the meeting she thought he fell down.

Gray-Jackson said afterward she didn't have a comment, but didn't expect to talk to Flynn about his actions.

Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, an officer and attorney in the Alaska National Guard, also spoke up during the meeting. He said he didn't see Flynn's display, but said he didn't find it disrespectful or an attack on veterans.

Evans said he didn't believe Flynn meant disrespect to any groups and was trying to support people in his district. But he also said he wanted to wear his military pin to reflect other perspectives on the protest of the pledge.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.