Veteran Held by Police After Taking Flag from Protesters Who Were Walking On It

A female Air Force veteran was detained by police and has been banned from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, after she reportedly took an American flag away from protesters on the campus who were walking all over it. Michelle Manhart was held by campus police and will not be allowed to step foot on the grounds again because, she says, she couldn't help but take action when she noticed the nation's flag being disrespected.

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Manhart, who is also a former Playboy model who reportedly resigned from the military in 2008 because she was reprimanded over her nude photos, says she had no intention of stealing the flag. But, after receiving a phone call from a student who told her the protest group was walking on the flag, she didn't feel it was right to sit by and not do anything about it.

The veteran says she didn't know what cause the protesters were supporting—the demonstrators declined to comment about their protest, but there is some talk that it may have had something to do with racism in the military—but she says she firmly opposes the way the group was going about their protest.

After she took the flag away, three police officers allegedly wrestled Manhart to the ground. She reportedly admits she resisted arrest at first and police claim she also verbally harassed a female officer. The demonstrators and police officers both declined to press charges against Manhart. She won't be allowed to attend campus events or take classes there, but that's as far as it went, thankfully.

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Regardless of what you think about the American flag—whether you believe it's nothing more than a symbol or even feel it represents something sinister—it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that the courageous women and men who sacrifice their lives and families to defend our country have the utmost respect for it.

Manhart didn't feel she could sit by and watch the flag be, literally, dragged through the mud. I empathize with her stance and admire her for defending her position. But I also understand Valdosta's argument that, whether we like it or not, it isn't a crime to disrespect the American flag. Technically, Manhart didn't have the right to take property that didn't belong to her.

The university released the following statement on Facebook:

Dear VSU students, faculty, and staff,

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."

We respect the rights of people to peacefully assemble and voice their opinions. 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.

For further questions or information, please contact the VSU Office of Communications at 229-333-2163.

Do you think it's fair for this veteran to be banned from the university for taking the flag? 

 

Image via Carissa Rogers/Flickr

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