Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart was arrested yesterday when she tried to prevent protesters at a Georgia college from trampling on the American flag.
The incident, in which Manhart took the flag away from a group apparently protesting racism, occurred at Valdosta State University. After detaining Manhart, campus cops returned the flag to the protesters, who were asked to disperse when they were unable to produce student ID cards.
On the NSFW video embedded below, flag-protector Manhart can be heard informing the protesters that the flag "actually belongs to the entire United States."
It took three cops to take Manhart, who has admitted to resisting and refused to give up the flag, into custody. They issued the patriotic veteran a criminal trespass warning, which apparently prevents her from returning to the campus. No other charges were lodged against her.
"I was just going over there to pick up the flag off the ground. I don't know what their cause is, but I went to pick [the flag] up because it doesn't deserve to be on the ground..." Manhart told the Valdosta Daily Times. "If your cause is racism, then find some white people and walk on them. But to walk on the flag is walking on our symbol of freedom. You have the freedom to do what you are doing because of it. I'm not fighting against them. I'm fighting against the way they are going about it."
The school's Board of Regents issued a statement that said, "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. We are monitoring the situation."
About the demonstrators, a university official noted that "They were exercising their right to symbolic speech. As long as they don't disrupt the operations of the university, we let people engage in protest and debate."On Facebook, Michelle Manhart claimed that the campus protesters were allegedly stomping on the American flag for three days before she arrived on the scene.
"The campus refused to do anything about it... So we decided to get the flag and give it the respect it deserved...We just wanted to remove it and dispose of it properly...The American flag represents our Freedom why would you want to walk on that?... I wonder if 'Donors' of VSU are ok with this blatant disrespect of the flag."According to The Blaze, Michelle Manhart was allegedly demoted by the U.S. Air Force in 2007 from the rank of staff sergeant for posing nude in Playboy.
[image via YouTube]
Update: Michell Manhart plans an counter-demonstration on Wednesday to show support for the stars and stripes and the U.S. military. She also acknowledged the 1989 Texas v. Johnson U.S. Supreme Court ruling that flag desecration was a form of free speech under the First Amendment, but added that "The bald eagle is a symbol of our country, and back in the 80s it was put on the endangered species list. You can't touch that bird. It's illegal. If we can do that with a bird, why can't we place that same value on the flag?"
She also explained that "I saw what was happening, and I couldn't believe nothing was being done about it. In my head I kept seeing all the caskets of our service members. It was like they were walking on their caskets. It hurt me so much. I couldn't let it go on."
On the Valdosta State University Facebook page, William J. McKinney, VSU's president wrote in a message to students, faculty, and staff that "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...."
Michelle Manhart talks to Megyn Kelly on The Kelly File about rescuing the American flag and her background.