ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – While demonstrators clashed with riot police during Sunday’s protests, there was another confrontation many people missed.
A viral video (warning: graphic language) published by Inhabitants of Burque shows a battle over a US flag.
The video shows a protester on what appears to be a motorized scooter carrying an upside-down flag on Central Avenue just south of UNM. Two men run after the protester yelling for them to turn the flag right side up.
You can see the protester drop the flag to the ground as the scooter drives away from the men.
One of the men, dressed in a US Marine Corps tank top, picks it up and turns it up before starting to walk away. Another demonstrator starts to argue with them about the meaning of the upside-down flag but they shout back.
“I don’t give a [expletive] what the symbol is,” one of the men is heard saying. “We serve our [expletive] country and that’s bull[expletive].”
The men then walk across the street and away with the flag.
KRQE News 13 was unable to confirm Tuesday whether the men shown are in fact Marines or in the military.
As of Tuesday night, nearly 90,000 people had already watched the video and more than 800 people had commented on the YouTube video.
Comments were sharply divided. Some criticized the men for violating the protester’s right to free speech and misinterpreting what an upside-down flag means. Others criticized the protester for disrespecting the flag and applauded the men for stepping in.
So what exactly does an upside-down flag mean?
The US Flag Code addresses it under a section for “Respect for flag.”
The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
“I would say the most disrespectful thing that happened in that video is the flag being tossed on the ground,” said Marine Maj. Brian Cillissen in a phone interview.
Cillissen said it’s difficult to judge the full situation from the short video, but from what he saw, he would not approve of the men’s conduct if they were under his command.
“There are a lot of folks that have a lot of passion about that flag and want to protect it at all costs, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we’re in the service to support and defend the Constitution,” Cillissen said. “If somebody is disrespecting that flag, legitimately it’s not any one person’s place to use intimidation or coercion to try and stop that.”