American Legion Speaks Out on Upside-Down American Flags

By: Georgia | Last updated: Jul 04, 2024

The American Legion has a clear stance: flags should only be flown upside down if there’s “extreme danger to life or property.” 

This statement from the veteran organization aims to clarify proper flag use amidst ongoing discussions.

Controversy at Justice Alito’s Home

The issue gained attention when an upside-down flag was spotted outside Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home in early 2021. 

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Portrait of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito smiling and wearing his judicial robe

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Justice Alito revealed that it was his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, who raised the flag, which sparked further debate.

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Upside-Down Flags and Trump Supporters

Some supporters of former President Donald Trump have flown upside-down flags, linking it to claims that the 2020 election was stolen. 

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Two protesters holding an American flag upside down, symbolizing distress or protest

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This act has turned the upside-down flag into a “stop the steal” symbol for these groups.

Trump’s Family Involved in Upside-Down Flags

It’s not just Trump’s supporters that have been using upside-down flags as a way to protest his convictions, as his own family has been sharing photos of this form of protest on social media.

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A US flag on a flagpole that has been hung upside-down.

@Kat4Obama/X

Lara Trump and Donald Trump Jr., the former President’s daughter-in-law and eldest son respectively, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is a Georgia Rep. and long-time ally of Trump, were all sharing these images online.

Trump’s Convictions Signal the End of America

Among the people who were sharing images of the upside-down American flag, some were also claiming that Trump’s convictions are a sign of there being a civil war in America or that America has now come to an end.

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A close-up image of Donald Trump with two mics in front of him.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Some even referred to this as similar to the fall of Rome, with others believing that this was a bit of an overreaction to the trial of a former President.

The Flag as a National Symbol

American Legion National Commander Daniel Seehafer emphasized the flag’s significance.

An American flag waving in the wind against a clear blue sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

They said, “The American flag is a symbol of courage, strength, freedom, and democracy.” 

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American Flag Banned From Alaska National Park

There have been further flag controversies aside from it being hung upside down. The Denali National Park in Alaska became the center of a controversy when it banned the flag.

A US flag flying outside a building.

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This was due to construction workers attaching the flag to their trucks. Some visitors to the park claimed that it was creating too much noise, so the park swiftly banned the flag to appease visitors.

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American Flag Deemed ‘Hate Symbol'

The American flag has also been referred to as a “hate symbol” by those working in DEI due to it serving as a reminder of pain for those who have experienced racism and prejudice.

Two people with the US flag. One has it draped over their shoulders while on a bike, and the other has it on a flagpole and is running along the sidewalk by the sea.

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This has caused outrage for many, who say that the left has taken it too far with the anti-American agenda. However, others have said they agree with this statement and that the American flag doesn’t need to be put up in all buildings.

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FDNY Firefighters Told To Remove 9/11 American Flag

A further controversy has come from FDNY firefighters, who were asked to remove their 9/11 American flag tribute.

A small US flag in the ground.

Debby Hudson/Unsplash

The tribute is for the firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11. While most can understand that, there was a complaint that the flag is seen as a politically charged symbol, which caused the firefighters to be made to remove it.

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The Flag Code Explained

Seehafer referenced the Flag Code, which details how the flag should be displayed. 

Exterior of an American Legion post building with the sign "American Legion Border Post No. 107" above the entrance

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to the code, an upside-down flag should signal “extreme danger to life or property.”

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Flag Code Not Legally Enforceable

What many might not realize is that the flag code isn’t legally enforceable.

The US flag flying above a building.

Alejandro Luengo/Unsplash

Even though only flying the flag upside-down in times of distress is suggested and meant to be done as a sign of respect for the flag code, people won’t be arrested if they hang it upside down for whatever reason that might be.

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Flags Commonly Used at Sea

Many years ago, it was much more common to see the American flag at sea than on land. This was to make it easier to determine the nationality of a ship traveling at sea.

The US flag on top of a bridge.

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Making a distress call was much harder, and in some cases impossible, back then. The crew on a ship would hang the flag upside-down as a sign of the ship being in distress to other passing ships.

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Justice Alito’s Explanation

Justice Alito told Fox News that his wife raised the upside-down flag following an argument with a neighbor. 

Close-up photo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito smiling

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Martha-Ann Alito referred to the flag as “an international signal of distress,” explaining its display.

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Questioning the Timeline

Neighbor Emily Baden questioned the timeline given by the Alitos. 

An upside-down American flag displayed on a flagpole outside a home

Source: acnewsitics/X

She mentioned that she did not see the upside-down flag and that her argument with the Alitos occurred nearly a month after the flag was reportedly displayed.

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The Neighbor’s Perspective

Emily Baden told NBC News that the Alitos seemed to imply the argument happened right before they raised the flag, which she called “a lie.” 

An American flag flown upside down on a flagpole, with green trees in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Her statement adds more scrutiny to the reasons behind the flag’s display.

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Anti-Trump Yard Signs

The neighbors’ spat was reportedly about anti-Trump yard signs, which, if Alito’s timeline of events is to be believed, could be why the flag was hung upside down.

A cardboard sign that says "Anti-Trump" in white and blue.

@mattminer1984/X

This links to the Trump supporters holding up upside-down flags recently, which could have been what the Alito’s were doing.

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Flag Hung Days Before Biden’s Inauguration

Consequentially, the flag was hung upside-down in January 2021, just days before President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

An upside-down US flag hanging outside a building with cars underneath it.

@goRubenRuben/X

As Alito is a well-known conservative, there is every chance there could have been some form of protest against this, but this hasn’t been confirmed by any of the people involved.

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Flying Flags Upside-Down as a Form of Protest

Flags being hung upside-down isn’t new; it has been happening for years. For at least the last 50 years, people have been hanging the American flag upside-down as a form of protest.

An upside-down US flag.

@iamgnurr/X

While some people agree that hanging the flag upside-down is perfectly acceptable when protesting or in times of distress, others believe it is completely distasteful and shouldn’t be done at all.

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American Legion and Past Flag Controversies

The American Legion has dealt with flag-related controversies before. 

An American Legion sign with the words "Freedom, Honor, Allegiance" and an illustration of American flags

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, Donald Trump stated on X, formerly Twitter, that “nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag,” and the American Legion praised this stance.

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Trump's Views on Flag-Burning

Trump suggested severe consequences for flag-burning, stating, “if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!” 

Former President Donald Trump speaking at a podium with a large American flag in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The American Legion supported this view, with then-National Commander Charles E. Schmidt saying, “no one should tolerate desecration of the American flag.”

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Amendment Attempts

The Legion’s effort to ban flag-burning nearly succeeded. 

An American flag displayed on the side of a house, with a mountainous landscape in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The most recent attempt failed by just one vote in 2006, showing how close they came to changing the Constitution.

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Unserviceable Flags Are Destroyed

According to the American Legion, once a flag has served its purpose it has to be destroyed. The most preferable way for this to happen is by burning.

A US flag on top of a truck.

Lukas Juhas/Unsplash

Individual citizens need to do this in the most discreet way possible so that the act of destruction cannot be viewed as a form of protest or desecration. The American Legion can conduct a dignified unserviceable flag ceremony.

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When the American Flag Is and Isn’t Allowed

There are several instances when the American flag is and isn’t allowed, although this entirely depends on the circumstance. For the most part, the American flag is allowed in all situations.

The US flag against a blue background.

Michael Schaffler/Unsplash

However, one situation where it cannot be displayed is for advertising. This includes using the flag or an image of the flag. Despite this, advertisers can use stars and stripes and red, white, and blue colors to convey a patriotic tone.

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The Legion’s Influence

With nearly 2 million members, the American Legion is the “largest wartime veterans service organization.” 

Close-up of the American Legion logo on a sign, featuring a star and the letters "US" in the center

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Their opinions on the American flag carry significant weight, reflecting their influence and commitment to national symbols.

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