TUMWATER -- Local Vietnamese Americans waved two flags as
they sat inside City Hall on Tuesday night.
One was yellow with three red stripes, formerly the flag of South
Vietnam. The other was red, white and blue, also known as the
star-spangled banner. The gesture showed their dual heritage.
The Tumwater City Council unanimously voted to pass a resolution
Tuesday supporting the yellow flag as the symbol of the South
Vietnamese community, marking the first such measure approved by a
city in Washington.
The yellow South Vietnamese flag no longer represents a country.
A red flag with a yellow star replaced it when North Vietnamese
forces entered Saigon on April 30, 1975, forcing South Vietnam to
surrender and ending the civil war.
"This means a lot to the Vietnamese community," said Tuan Vu, an
Olympia resident who came to the United States as a Vietnamese
refugee in 1975. "When we left Vietnam, we left everything behind
except our hearts full of hope and love of freedom. This yellow flag
was our passport to freedom in America."
In the spring, a display of the red flag at South Puget Sound
Community College sparked anger among local Vietnamese refugees who
have said they find the banner offensive.
The request for the Tumwater resolution came from a coalition of
Vietnamese-American groups whose members say the move is unrelated
to the controversy at the college. Nearly 20 such resolutions have
passed across the country.
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 50 Vietnamese Americans
attended the meeting Tuesday, and several brought cameras and video
recorders to capture the resolution's passage on film. Some carried
signs or wore T-shirts that read "Let freedom ring" and showed a
merging of the American and former South Vietnamese flag.
"This really is an awesome display," Councilman Ed Stanley said.
"This is one of the biggest groups we've ever had."
Two people who came to the meeting said they opposed the
H. "Guz" Schwartz, a Vietnam War veteran who lives in Tumwater,
said the resolution could set a dangerous precedent that would open
the door for people who support the confederate flag, for example,
to seek similar city support.
"I have a problem with trying to supplant another flag of a
current nation with another flag," he said. "If that is the ulterior
intent, then I'm concerned about it."
Huong Le, president of the Vietnamese Student Association at
South Puget Sound Community College, said he was excited about
"I feel like the city of Tumwater still actually recognizes us
and listens to our voice," he said.