SALEM — Call it flag-gate.
For years, the North Shore Medical Center has flown banners on the flagpoles in Riley Plaza to thank the businesses that sponsor its annual North Shore Cancer Walk, which is being held Sunday.
This year, it decided to thank the sponsors a different way by printing their names on the back of T-shirts that runners will wear in the first North Shore Cancer Run, which also takes place Sunday.
But the city apparently never got the word and decided to fly the banners anyway. Thus, for the past two weeks, the companies' names have been flapping in the breeze under 12 American flags on the dozen flagpoles in Riley Plaza, which is named for a Salem man who won the Medal of Honor.
A Lynn resident who happened to walk through the plaza this week realized right away that something was wrong. He contacted The Salem News and said he didn't want to cause a problem, and didn't even want the banners removed, but thought the city should know for the future that flying company banners on a flagpole is a violation of the U.S. Flag Code.
Indeed, it appears he's right.
One section of the Flag Code prohibits use of the American flag for advertising. It states: "Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown."
After checking it out, the North Shore Medical Center agreed.
"We didn't realize it was a violation," NSMC spokesman Kevin Ronningen said. "We called the city and asked them to take them down."
And what a week for this to happen.
Monday was Flag Day.