Photo: nktwentythree (iStock)

If we weren’t living in 2018, a local pizzeria’s decision to paint an American flag mural on the side of its building probably wouldn’t be news. The owner would hire a painter; the painter would paint the flag mural; people would see it; end of story. But this being 2018, nothing can be so simple, as the people of New Paltz, New York found out this weekend.

The town, population approximately 14,000, saw political divisions flare this weekend as opposing groups held marches and counter-protests—all sparked by one pizzeria’s desire to paint an American flag mural on its building’s brick wall. The Times Herald-Record reports that about 300 people gathered Sunday to raise money and demonstrate support for La Bella Pizza Bistro’s proposed American flag mural, which has its own GoFundMe page. In response, a smaller contingent of 50-60 counter demonstrators gathered “not against the mural, but against the negative things they say the flag symbolizes.” As pro-mural marchers gathered, a few counter demonstrators held signs, including one that read: “In memory of those murdered by American imperialism.”

To its credit, the GoFundMe page for the mural is carefully apolitical, acknowledging that the American flag holds multiple meanings: “Individuals from across New Paltz who might not always see eye to eye politically have been working together on a fundraiser to support a permanent mural installation in New Paltz featuring our U.S. flag. No singular ideology or worldview can lay claim to what our flag means and represents.”

An artist’s rendering shows a proposed mural featuring a waving flag against a blue-sky background. So far, the campaign has raised more than $4,300 of its $8,000 goal.