For nearly a decade, historic flags have been displayed during certain holidays — including Presidents Day — at the entrance of The Rookery section of Hilton Head Plantation.
But the tradition has ended.
Peter Kristian, general manager of the gated community, , said his office received several complaints recently from residents upset about the flags. Some flags were displayed over the weekend in observance of Presidents Day on Monday, but were removed after Kristian said he ordered them to be taken down.
Unfortunately in the times we live in, you have to be careful about this. Once you open the door to one person’s expressions, you open the door to all expressions and that can be dangerous.
Peter Kristian, Hilton Head Plantation
While The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette does not have a complete list of the flags, the group included a POW/MIA flag, a South Carolina flag from the Civil War era, and the Grand Union and Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flags from the American Revolutionary War era.
“Some of them had slogans that you could take to be political,” Kristian said. “Unfortunately in the times we live in, you have to be careful about this. Once you open the door to one person’s expressions, you open the door to all expressions and that can be dangerous.”
Kristian would not elaborate on which flag or flags residents found offensive.
To Marianne Osentoski, a Rookery resident, the flags were not political but historic symbols of the nation. She also felt they united The Rookery community.
“The flags are a part of our community spirit,” she said. “The Rookery is a small family community. We have a parade on the Fourth of July. Everyone gets together for watermelon.”
William Leitner, owner of the flags, declined to comment extensively when contacted Monday but did say he never intended to offend anyone with what he termed the “historical flags.” He said, though, removing the flags seemed like the right thing to do after he learned a neighbor was upset.
Taking the flags down also was appropriate to follow the rules of the property owners association, Leitner said.
Kristian said the flags sat on a Hilton Head Plantation right-of-way. He said permission from the property owners association generally is first needed before placing flags or signs on rights-of-way.
“If permission was asked first, it is possible we would have allowed the flags,” he said.
Property owners have more leniency for what can be placed on their own land, but Kristian said the property owners association would likely restrict some flags.
“If someone puts up an ISIS or Nazi flag on their own property, we are probably going to ask them to remove it,” he said.
Kristian said there is one flag that residents are allowed to put on plantation rights-of-way without asking permission.
“We did say they could display as many American flags as they would like,” he said. “We do live in the United States, and I hope that is the one thing we are all OK with.”
An American flag that was part of the group of displayed flags at The Rookery was allowed to remain in place.