The Seattle City Council passed a resolution recognizing the Vietnamese “Heritage and Freedom” flag as the symbol of Seattle’s Vietnamese community. The resolution passed 8-1 on June 22.
“I was honored to work with our great Seattle Vietnamese community to get this legislation passed,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who sponsored the bill. “It was an awesome demonstration of community organizing with almost 300 people in Council Chambers.”
The yellow flag with three red stripes represented the Republic of Vietnam before the fall of Saigon. Over the last 40 years, Vietnamese refugees that arrived in United States after the war continue to recognize the flag as a symbol of their home country.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant cast the lone dissenting vote against the resolution. She said that the Seattle City Council “has a duty to not uncritically endorse these projections and interpretations in the name of the entire city without a fuller understanding of the history of the flag.”
A number of other Washington cities, including Olympia and Tacoma, have passed similar resolutions.
Sawant said: “I fully support the first part of the resolution, where it says: ‘The City of Seattle honors its local Vietnamese community’s history, contributions, and achievements.’ Unfortunately, I think the subsequent portions, where all of that respect and acknowledgement is put in terms of support for one flag, is not reflective of the complicated history and the high emotions still linked to so much hardship and suffering on different sides.”
Sawants words drew jeers from the audience made up of flag-bearing members Seattle’s Vietnamese community, after which recently elected Councilmember John Okamoto said: “I don’t view this resolution as taking sides. This resolution honors our local Vietnamese community.”
Seattle is home to more than 10,000 Vietnamese Americans, the second largest foreign-born immigrant community in Seattle, and the state of Washington is home to more than 70,000 Vietnamese Americans.