Mall responds to uproar, says U.S. flags can stay on kiddie train

Update: The Clackamas Town Center posted the following statement both on their Facebook page and on the KATU comment board in response to numerous complaints from folks who were angered over this story.

"We honor, support and respect what the United States flag represents. The actions and letter that were communicated certainly did not convey that. And for this, we apologize. We can see how many were offended. It was never the intent to offend or show any disrespect. The U.S. flag will remain displayed at the kiddie train and in other locations within the mall. We wholeheartedly support those who fight to allow us and everyone else to display the flag. Clackamas Town Center hosts and sponsors events every year that recognize and honor these and other heroes and will continue to do so."

CLACKAMAS, Ore. - A fight over the American flag is brewing at the Clackamas Town Center.

The manager of the children's train at the mall says he's being forced to remove flags that he uses to decorate the train ride.

Why? The mall told him the flags are against policy.

Thomas Phelps said he was floored when he got a letter from mall management telling him that the flags he put on the train a few weeks ago were "unapproved visuals."

That reference didn't sit too well with Phelps, who also happens to be a military veteran.

"That is dedicated to veterans and military, police, firefighters, EMTs - all those people that daily put their lives on the line for us," Phelps said. "That's what it's dedicated to. And if you're going to call that a Christmas decoration or something, then I'm sorry, I don't want to be around you. You're not in my country."

Phelps said he would understand if it was causing a problem but he said nobody has complained - not once.

And he isn't alone in his feelings. Connie Marsden, a local grandmother, told us "It's the United States. That's our flag. We should be proud of it. Not be forced to take it off a little ride for the kids."

The mall did not allow our news camera on its property but a family who took a train ride on Sunday told us they enjoyed the ride and didn't understand why the flags were a problem.

The Clackamas Town Center sent us a written response when we asked for comment. General Manager Dennis Curtis wrote in an e-mail "we honor, appreciate and respect everything the U.S. flag represents."

Still, Phelps said mall management isn't budging and he's prepared to lose his job before he takes down the flags.

"I may be fired, I may be thrown out of the mall, but I am not taking it down," he said.

Once the word got out about what was going on, folks started talking about it not only on the KATU comment board and Facebook page, but across the web. Here's a look at some of what people were saying Sunday evening:

[View the story "Mall says U.S. flags on kiddie train must go" on Storify]

The Clackamas Town Center's own Facebook page became a target as those upset over the flag mandate wrote the mall directly to share their feelings. And not long after our story was published online and aired in a newscast, a Boycott Clackamas Town Center Facebook page was created.