A former Air Force Staff Sergeant was hauled away in handcuffs and detained by Valdosta State University security after she snatched an American flag up off of the ground which was being trampled on by protestors.
“The flag is an iconic symbol for freedom,” said Michelle Manhart. “If you are going to fight for a cause and use the First Amendment – how are you going to stomp and trample the icon that gives you that right?”
But apparently the flag was being used as a symbol of protest and according to a statement by the university, they stand behind the right of their students to protest, regardless of what symbols are involved.
“We respect the rights of people to peacefully assemble and voice their opinions,” the statement read. “Our primary concern is the safety of our students, faculty and staff and our ability to carry out our responsibilities to all our students on campus. We are monitoring the situation.”
President of Valdosta State, Dr. William McKinney, later elaborated on the statement.
“The American flag represents everything that is best about our country,” he said. “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.”
Manhart argued that the flag, which had been torn and tattered after being walked over for days, needed to be disposed of properly and refused to hand the flag back over to protesters. In fact, it took three officers to detain her. Those actions left her slapped with threats for federal charges before she was permanently banned from the university.
As Manhart is hauled away, one witness can be heard on the video saying, presumably to the officers detaining her, “You couldn’t stand up for the flag?”