Walgreens removes rainbow flag after customers complain
Corporate office says Walgreens has no specific guidelines about displaying flags
Published Thursday, 30-Nov-2006 in issue 988
A new Walgreens store in North Park took down a rainbow flag that hung in a display window after receiving complaints from customers.
“I live in North Park and recently was very pleased to see the new Walgreens and Starbucks move into the neighborhood on University,” North Park resident Geoff Graham said of the store located at 3222 University Ave., which opened the first week in November. “I was even more pleasantly surprised by the rainbow flag placed in the window alongside the United States flag.”
Graham said he was disappointed to see that the rainbow flag had been taken down and wanted to find out why it was removed.
“I inquired at Starbucks first and learned that a customer angrily complained to both Starbucks and Walgreens about the rainbow flag,” he said. “The two windows in question belong to Walgreens, so I went to the manager of Walgreens and complained. [The manager] said that the corporate office asked him to take the rainbow flag down after complaints. The manager was also concerned about his cashiers being harassed [or] abused by customers. The manager was very apologetic about the issue.”
Walgreens store manager John Nicholas said he could not make any comments about the situation.
“What [Nicholas] relayed to me was that corporate had told him to take the rainbow flag down and that it wasn’t part of what they were supposed to be putting in the window there,” Graham said. “He indicated it was something he did on his own, not with corporate knowing or anything like that…”
When asked if they had a corporate policy on displaying flags in Walgreens stores, Michael Polzin, a spokesperson at Walgreens’ Deerfield, Ill. corporate office, said one does not exist.
“We don’t have a corporate policy on displaying flags, the U.S. flag or anything like that,” he said. “We do not have a standard that all stores do or don’t.”
Polzin said if areas within the store are not designated for signage, then the stores try to adhere to a clean look and try not to have the areas look “too cluttered.”
Walgreens plans to put signage in the two large display windows where the rainbow and U.S. flags were displayed, Polzin said.
“We have signage coming for those windows, but it’s not there yet and it might be a few more weeks before we get it and are able to put it up,” he said.
Polzin confirmed Nicholas put both flags up and had taken them down after receiving complaints.
“In the meantime, the store manager thought to just be a part of the community that he would put up a U.S. flag and the diversity flag in those windows, just until he gets the permanent signage,” Polzin said. “That was the only reason for putting those up. He did hear some complaints from some customers about the flags, and so he decided rather than worry about offending anyone, he would just take the flags down and leave those windows open until the permanent displays come.”
Graham said the U.S. flag was not taken down right away with the rainbow flag, however.
“If you can’t have the rainbow flag then you really shouldn’t have the American flag there,” he said. “I complained that the United States flag shouldn’t be there. It’s sad that bigotry continues to manifest itself in this way in our community.”
The Gay & Lesbian Times confirmed that both flags no longer appear in the window.
Polzin said Walgreens has been a very strong sponsor of HIV/AIDS -related efforts in addition to other GLBT-related causes. In 2003, Walgreens opened an HIV/AIDS specialty facility at the Desert AIDS Project clinic in Palm Springs. Walgreens also operates another such facility at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago.
“We’ve been a sponsor of AIDS Walk and markets across the country,” he said. “We were a corporate sponsor of the Gay Games that were held in Chicago this last summer. I think we are very much a part of the community.”