Peekskill Councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo has come under fire for her decision not to say the Pledge of Allegiance during Common Council meetings and other events.
Agudelo, who has been on the council for four months since the Democrats swept all four seats up for grabs last November and now hold all seven seats, was criticized at the April 23 meeting by an outspoken resident and also was lambasted by former Mayor Frank Catalina in a Facebook post.
“Let me get this straight: An elected official cowardly stands while the Pledge is said but refuses to actually say the Pledge or even respectfully hold her hand over her heart; too young and immature to realize the significance of that pledge and showing respect for the millions who fought and died for her ‘right’ to be a moron and a poor example of a public official,” Catalina stated.
“Next time, and all the time, she should muster the backbone to fully exercise her ‘right’ by NOT standing, but to show her real ‘courage,’ petulance and ignorance, by sitting or taking a knee during the pledge rather than meekly posing,” he continued. “Let’s see if this coward shows that courage (or even shows up) at the solemn Memorial Day ceremony next month! I predict this extremist will retreat, hide her radicalism, and lack the real courage of her misguided convictions by ‘playing along’ with ‘rituals’from now on.”
Leesther Brown confronted Agudelo during the hearings of citizens portion of last week’s meeting and called on the city’s Ethics Board to investigate the consequences of Agudelo’s apparent stance.
“If you don’t want to take the Pledge, you need to step down,” Brown contended. “Her personal belief has nothing to do with it when she’s sitting up at the dais. You have no right when you represent the City of Peekskill.”
Agudelo responded to Brown but declined to explain why she doesn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I won’t come back with a public statement on why I won’t say the Pledge and what’s it’s for. I do have my right,” she said. “I did say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was inaugurated out of respect for the ritual; that plays into the patriotism of the country.”
However, Agudelo answered an email from Examiner Media and provided a detailed explanation, while also noting she was “a proud member of the Hudson Valley Democratic Socialists of America and a proud environmentalist.”
“My reason for respectfully refraining from saying the Pledge of Allegiance is not because I don’t respect the values this country stands for, it is because of our country’s failure to truly uphold them I,” Agudelo stated. “I have the utmost respect for our service women and men, both overseas and in the states, and I have a deep appreciation for all the sacrifices they have had to make. I do not think our country does enough to address the many challenges our veterans face after coming home from war nor is our country transparent enough about the hundreds, even thousands of lives lost fighting wars that most Americans do not or have not agreed with.”
“There is also this level of unquestionable loyalty and mindless conformity in reciting the pledge on such a consistent basis that makes me personally feel uncomfortable,” she continued. “Many people do not know that our pledge was originally written by a socialist in 1892, that there have been several versions of our pledge since its creation, or that the “under God” was not added until almost a century after, used as a political ploy during the Cold War. Most countries in Europe don’t even have a pledge of allegiance or have discontinued its use. This speaks volumes.”
Mayor Andre Rainey defended Agudelo’s “personal right” not to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“To attack somebody’s beliefs to me is belittling them and is just disrespectful and unethical,” Rainey said at the end of last week’s meeting. “Peekskill, NY is a place where we appreciate the freedom to express yourself, the freedom to pursue life, liberty and freedom.”