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LGBT Network Spars With Long Beach Over Flying Pride Flags

Image by SatyaPrem from Pixabay

LGBTQ advocates and police union members called for the resignation of the City Council president and police commissioner in Long Beach on Long Island during a protest in support of flying the rainbow Pride flag on the city boardwalk over the weekend. The city said it will consider a defamation lawsuit after officials were called “homophobic and discriminatory.”

David Kilmnick, executive director of the LGBT Network of Long Island, said city officials politicized the Pride flag that was flown outside a local restaurant on public property and told its owner to take it down.

“The rainbow flag is not going to be in the back of the bus. It is not going to be behind everything else. We are not putting it in the closet,” Kilmnick said. “It is going to be where it should be.”

Authorities said the flag was being flown on public property in violation of the city code. They said it has nothing to do with what the flag stands for.

“I knew nothing about this until a bogus press release was issued,” City Council President John Bendo said in a statement. “It is appalling that the LGBT Network is allowing its reputation to be damaged in this way.”

The Long Beach Police Benevolent Association joined the protest after the union voted no-confidence in city Police Commissioner Ronald Walsh last month.

Kilmnick’s nonprofit has been at odds with Long Beach after the network refused to pay $70,000 for services during several Pride on the Beach festivals on the city boardwalk. The network said it withheld payment because other organizations that hold annual events do not have to pay for these services.

The network’s chief legal counsel, Robert Agostisi, is also being sued by the city after a state Comptroller’s investigation found alleged fraud. The city said Agostisi, the former acting city manager, and other employees “violated the public trust” in the uncovered payout scheme. The city seeks to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The city said Walsh and Bendo deserve an apology from Kilmnick or face potential legal action.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.