Two commissioners serving on the city of Encinitas Traffic and Public Safety Commission are refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Commissioner Darius Degher says it is his way of protesting the Trump administration and its style of nationalism.
“They are using nationalism as a tool of division, nationalism and fear, and this idea of patriotism when, in fact, it’s a false patriotism,” said Degher.
Degher joined fellow-Commissioner Christina Simokat, who sat during the pledge at the commission’s October meeting. Both chose not to stand during the commission’s December meeting.
“Regardless of the reason, I choose not to say the pledge at any given time, I am very simply exercising my legal right not to participate,” said Simokat in an email.
She also said the pledge is meant to be a spontaneous act, not a procedural requirement. Simokat said she does not want to feel forced into expressing feelings she does not have at the moment.
Their decision has upset the co-chairman of the commission, Peter Kohl.
Kohl is an immigrant from Germany who served in the U.S. Army. He has been on the commission for 9 years, and said the decision by his fellow commissioners is mind boggling and disrespectful.
“Anybody who doesn't stand or even when they sit, refuses to take their hat off, that to me is disrespectful, to me that is the issue," said Kohl. "Why are we disrespecting something that is so important to this country? We’re not pledging allegiance to President Trump or any other politician. We are pledging allegiance to a symbol of this country that's been around for well over 200 years. And that to me is the important thing."
The commissioners are nominated by the mayor and then appointed by the city council. They are unpaid volunteer positions.
“Choosing to not stand is a peaceful form of protest, I see no problem with it," said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.
Blakespear selected both Degher and Simokat and said she would not have changed her mind had she known about their impending decision.
Legally, the commission is not required to observe the Pledge of Allegiance, but the agenda is set by the Chairman. He has no intention of removing the pledge, but may consider “inviting” people to stand, instead of telling them to “please rise.”