You may have heard the story about police in Valdosta detaining a U.S. veteran on Friday after she took an American flag away from students who were trampling it.
Michelle Manhart, a former Air Force staff sergeant who left the military after 14 years, took the flag from a group of African American students at Valdosta State University who were demonstrating against racism and the legacy of slavery.
Manhart, who is white, was handcuffed after refusing a campus police officer’s request to give back the flag. She was not charged with a crime but was later banned from returning to VSU campus, on the grounds that she had interfered with student activities as a visitor.
A 6 1/2 minute cell phone video of the incident (taken by Manhart’s daughter) went viral on social media sites, including Facebook. You can view the original video, which starts with an image of the protesters and continues with the actual video.
On Monday, a number of people showed support for Manhart, or at least the cause she represented: respect for the American flag.
What appeared to be at least a couple hundred people, mostly students, filled Valdosta State’s campus displaying the American flag proudly at a patriotic rally.
One VSU student, Erin Reece, pointed out on Twitter that, “We are not rallying for Michelle. This is simply to show support for our nation.”
Katie Bailey tweeted, “Michelle was completely in the right. I would have done the same thing if I saw someone disrespecting this amazing country.”
One of the protesters who was walking on the flag last Friday was back on Monday.
E.J. Sheppard, calling himself a member of the UNPrison Free Spirit, the Gatherers of Divine Souls and the New Black Panther Party, protested again Monday. He reportedly had two American flags, a Koran and a Bible placed on the ground next to where he was speaking.
Sheppard said the Bible represents what he sees as Africans being forcibly indoctrinated into Christianity, and the Koran represents Arabs forcibly indoctrinating them into Islam. Sheppard talked about what he said were the lingering effects of slavery in America.
According to the Valdosta Daily Times, there appeared to be no violent incidents during Monday’s protests, although one protester picked up one of Sheppard’s flags and folded it.
VSU President William McKinney issued the following statement in regards to the original April 17 protest in which protesters walked on the American flag:
“The American flag represents everything that is best about our country. As the Supreme Court has held, one of those things is the right to free speech, which includes the right to disrespect even the symbol of our country. While I firmly disagree with the actions of the protesters, I understand their right to protest.”
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