Pride banners still hanging in Woodstock, but not on town lampposts

It's been well over a month since the Town of Woodstock doubled down on its decision to not hang Pride banners on town lampposts, but with Pride month in full swing, Woodstock Pride organizers didn't let that get them down.

"Five of the six banners are now in place in different areas along Main Street in Woodstock," said Rainbow Crosswalk president Amanda Lightbody, noting the sixth is always used at the organization's events.

She said various people and businesses in the community contacted her to say they would love to have a banner, including a local coffee shop, a brewery, two libraries and a boutique.

For many years, Pride flags have been among the banners flown on lampposts in downtown Woodstock, but a change in town rules now only allows banners for "tourism and heritage promotion."

Amanda Lightbody, president of a Woodstock-based pride group, is speaking out after town officials are no longer allowing Pride flag banners to be flown in town.
Amanda Lightbody, president of Woodstock-based Pride group the Rainbow Crosswalk, said turnout for the group's Pride events has exceeded expectations. (Sam Farley/Zoom)

The Rainbow Crosswalk pushed back at this decision, asking for an exemption. Mayor Trina Jones responded at a testy council meeting, where she called Pride flags "a very divisive issue that has multiple sides to the debate."

In an emailed statement to Information Morning Fredericton's request for an interview, Jones reiterated the town's stance that the policy was "developed in an effort to ensure requests are reviewed and treated equitably by the Town."

Lightbody said it feels good knowing the banners are still flying, despite the town's decision.

"It makes not just us feel included but those people who understand what the banners really represent also feel included, and that's what we're hearing from people," she said.

The council meeting was live streamed on Youtube, but Jones and councillors stopped CBC News from recording it in person and objected to her photo being taken.
A file photo shows Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones objecting to her photo being taken at a council meeting where she defended the town's decision to change the banner rule, disallowing the Pride banners to be flown on lampposts. (Sam Farley/CBC News)

Spencer Wood, a student who just graduated from Woodstock High School, said when they heard about the change to the town's policy, they wanted to do something since they are involved with the local 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Wood started a petition, which has gathered more than 200 signatures, urging the display of the flags amid policies that specifically target the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Wood said they were once in a place where they felt like they wanted to speak out, but didn't know if they had a say. So now, they are working to give a voice to those who feel they can't speak out.

Spencer hopes the petition can bring about a better solution that works for both parties.

"Everyone deserves to have a chance to feel included, because there's some people that feel like Woodstock is not really an accepting place now, because of what is happening with Policy 713 [and] the banner policy," he said.

Spencer Wood started a petition after hearing about the town's decision to no longer fly Pride flags on its downtown lampposts.
Spencer Wood started a petition after hearing about the town's decision to no longer fly Pride flags on its downtown lampposts. (Ebony Scott/Submitted by Spencer Wood)

Lightbody said now that the banners are still flying around town, just not on the lampposts, she has received very little negative reaction, and the positive has outweighed the negative by far.

And she said the group's June Pride events have turned out to be much bigger than anticipated. She said it was originally thought to be three days at the end of the month, but has now turned into an entire month of events.

The events included a drag story time, a dance and a "gaymes" night. To finish the month, the group is hosting a potluck picnic.

But in terms of the organization's relationship with the town, she said there is nothing the group is doing now that would require town input. But when the time comes, she can see the group reaching out.

"I know a lot of people in our community have reached out. Those who have moved away from Woodstock have also reached out to town council," she said.

"But they've all come back to us and said, 'We've not heard anything at all from them. They've not replied to our emails or our messages.'

"So I don't know what will happen."