Students at a Delaware high school are upset at the reaction they received after protesting with an American flag turned upside down during this Wednesday’s National School Walkout.
Sussex Tech High School students say the “viral” photo of the flag resulted in a social media backlash, including some threats. According to DelawareOnline, one of those threats said “Get a rope!”
Other comments said the students were “diseases that need to be eradicated,” and were “‘morons’ who aren’t true Americans.”
One of the school’s walkout organizers, Josh Hoffpauir, said he knows the students who held the flag and is personally upset at the treatment to which they were subjected.
“The two who held the flag, who I consider friends, have both been berated and attacked,” he said. “The day after the walkout, I stood with them waiting outside to enter the school, afraid that they would be beaten up for voicing their opinions.”
Of course, while any sort of threat of physical violence is completely out of bounds, it’s quite another to demand no reaction at all — especially after a provocative display. (After all, United States Flag Code, Title 4, Chapter 1 – § 8(a) says “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.”)
For instance, Hoffpauir took issue with school board president Pat Cooper who said the students’ flag display “in no way depicts what Sussex Tech is about or preaches”:
“There are many things I find shocking about this ordeal,” [Hoffpauir] said. “I find it shocking that students standing up for what they believe in are written off as unaware, uninformed and ‘kids being kids.’ I find it remarkable that supporters of the Second Amendment are so afraid of students armed with the first.
“I am tired of students’ voices being dulled and watered down. We know full well what we are doing, and our message is clear. I am ashamed by the students who have made threats. I am ashamed of the parents and adults who spewed hate behind a screen. But most of all, I am proud.”
This is, unfortunately, an all-too typical misinterpretation of the First Amendment. Free speech does not mean freedom from criticism. While threats of violence aren’t (typically) protected by the amendment, people offering verbal criticism, even of a profane nature, are simply invoking their First Amendment rights.
These students wanted a reaction by carrying the flag upside down … and they got it.
Now they don’t like it.