May 7, 2009
Despite allegations to the contrary made on a local blog, last weekâ€™s display of some 400 Vietnamese and American flags which sprouted on scores of Vietnamese-owned businesses across the neighborhood was the work of a volunteer committee working to mark the anniversary of South Vietnamâ€™s collapse in 1975.
The flags â€“ most of which were down by Monday â€“ were the work of an all-volunteer committee based in Fields Corner and were paid for by the non-profit Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts. The organization â€“ which also runs the annual Tet in Boston celebration â€“ includes in its mission statement advocacy â€œfor human rights and democracy for Vietnam.â€
Tam Nguyen, a merchant from East Boston who helped to organize the effort, told the Reporter that the push to mount the flags was deliberately timed to mark the 34th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Called the â€œfreedom flagâ€ by many Vietnamese-American emigrants, the flag with a yellow field and three red stripes has been displaced as the official flag of Vietnam. However, it is prominently displayed by Dorchesterâ€™s large Vietnamese-American population, many of whom fought against the Communist regime there.
A local blogâ€” titled Savin Oxideâ€”last Friday accused the Menino administration of engineering the flag campaign, lambasting the mayor for trying to â€œbuy votesâ€ with the flags. The anonymous blogger, who asked the Reporter to investigate the flag issue, pulled the anti-Menino rant off-line â€” along with the entire blog siteâ€” after the Reporter began asking for evidence of the charges.'
Diane Huynh, Meninoâ€™s longtime liaison to the Vietnamese community, said she was aware of the flag effort â€” and connected organizers to the cityâ€™s Inspectional Services Department to get permission to display the flags temporarily. However, she and Nguyen both denied that the mayorâ€™s office conceived of the idea or paid for it in any way.
The anonymous blogger speculated that â€œfunding came from [Meninoâ€™s] campaign fundâ€¦ which Iâ€™m pretty sure would count as illegal. â€œUnfortunatly [sic], I think this is the case,â€ the writer continued. â€œYou see, in every store that has these flags these signs also have magically appeared overnight: [a photo of a Menino campaign sign.]
The Reporter, however, observed that â€” in factâ€” many of the storefronts flying the new flags also sported campaign signs for one of Meninoâ€™s rivals, Sam Yoon. Campaign placards for both men sprouted up in scores of stores along Dorchester Avenue in recent weeks.
Support for the display of dual patriotism was overwhelming from the merchants in the area, Nguyen said.
â€œ[For the] very first time they wished to have one day to have the Vietnamese flag. Their family members, husbands and brothers fought for this freedom flag. Every single store, theyâ€™d say, â€˜This is what we want. Weâ€™ve been yearning to see our flag.â€™â€
Nguyen told the Reporter that the display of Vietnamese-American pride will return in time for the annual celebration of neighborhood pride: the Dorchester Day Parade.