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Flag pole ban upsets N.C. Tea Party activists

RALEIGH — Organizers of a tea party event planned for Thursday at the state Capitol are unhappy they can't carry flags on poles because of state officials' fears that they could be used as weapons.

The prohibition applies to the American flag, North Carolina's state flag or anything else carried on a pole more than a foot in length. Scott Hunter, chief of the State Capitol Police, said that the group will be allowed to carry tiny flags of the kind handed out at parades and Fourth of July events.

"It's sad our country has come to this," said Laura Long, the Apex woman who applied for the permit on behalf of Triangle Conservatives Unite.

The ban on flagpoles and signs with posts that could be turned into weapons was added in September to the permit from the N.C. Department of Administration that groups need to hold demonstrations or events on state-operated grounds.

The rule states that demonstration participants can't carry "signs, banners, posters and other similar displays" attached to metal, wood or plastic posts. That includes flagpoles more than a foot in length, according to Jill Lucas, a department spokeswoman.

Doing so would invalidate the permit and mean police could shut down an event, said Hunter, who drafted the restriction. Hunter said that the measure was adopted to protect people, not to infringe upon their rights.

"It had nothing at all to do with the American flag, the North Carolina flag or anything like that," Hunter said. "The regulation was put in place to prevent injuries."

Hunter said groups that have had signs in violation, with large posts, have just been asked not to bring them onto the demonstration site.

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