Posted on 17 Comments

Flying U.S. Flag Upside-Down not sign of Protest

The United States Flag Code gives an explanation of reasons to fly the American flag upside-down, and none of the reasons include protest. Recently, I have witnessed many stories where people are flying the American flag upside-down as a form of protest against any number of things: the war, the President, the Supreme Court, school, etc.

Here is the most recent.

The Protest

Turning expectations upside down – The Boston Globe
peteruhlendorfprotestflag.jpgUhlendorf is not refusing to pay his taxes to protest a war. He hasn’t penned essays on issues of civil disobedience. But like Thoreau, who was frustrated with the Mexican-American War, Uhlendorf wanted some way to vent his opposition to the current Iraq situation. So, two years ago, when the Iraq War was at a low point, he began flying his American flag outside his home on Pepperell’s Brookline Street upside down, a maritime signal used on the high seas to show a vessel is in distress.

The move, which did not stir public outcry for the last two years, has touched a nerve in town of late.

He goes on to say in a later phone interview …

During a phone interview, Uhlendorf bristled slightly at any suggestion by others that what he was doing was unpatriotic or disrespectful to the symbolism of the flag.

“I’m a very patriotic person,” he said. “If there were more patriotic people who made a stand, then maybe this war would be over quicker.”

I must disagree with Mr Uhlendorf. I would never question his patriotism, but if he thinks he is not being disrespectful to the flag, he is dead wrong. By violating the very document that teaches us how to respect the U.S. flag, he shows his disdain for United States law.

Respect for flag

Respect for flag is the title given to Section 8 of the U.S. Flag Code, and it addresses this very issue. In fact, this issue is so important that it is the first article written in the Respect for Flag section. Here is the introduction and article (a) in Section 8 of the U.S. Flag Code.

No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) 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.


After reading the referenced story several times, I don’t see that Peter Uhlendorf is in extreme danger to either his life or his property. Maybe if he believes so strongly in protesting the war, he should stop paying his taxes, then he might have a reason to fly the flag in this manner.

The same section of the U.S. code containing the Tax Code also holds the Flag Code. There is one big difference though: there are no punitive repercussions for violating the Flag Code, whereas the Tax Code has the IRS to bring about “extreme danger to life and property.” Maybe he isn’t against the war as much as he wants us to believe. It’s easy pick on the American flag—and “protest” by flying it upside-down—but let’s see him pick on something with substance … the IRS, which funds the war he is against.

Protest? In this country we have the freedom to protest, and that’s good. We can disagree in many ways, but that doesn’t mean we should show disrespect for our flag. Write letters, send emails, attend meetings, stage marches with banners and hand-made signs. That’s what real protesters do.

Of course, the Supreme Court has ruled a protester can burn the American flag, but they haven’t ruled it’s OK to fly it as a sign of distress in protest.

Mr. Uhlendorf, you are showing contempt for a symbol I hold very dear, and that is disrespectful. Fly your American flag with respect, according to the U.S. Flag Code, and protest in ways protected by the U.S. Constitution. Then I will respect you.

17 thoughts on “Flying U.S. Flag Upside-Down not sign of Protest

  1. I’d say this country is in a state of extreme distress. I will fly mine upside down as a symbol of my patriotic duty to remind Americans that we need change very soon or this flag may as well be all RED with one YELLOW star.

  2. Flying the flag upside down is an international sign of distress that we cannot help ourselves and need immediate help.

  3. I agree with Larry and take issue with B. Donnell and Uhlendorf. It is disrespectful in the extreme to knowingly and deliberately fly the flag upside down in violation of the Flag Code.

    If they are such patriots, let them find more appropriate ways to express both their patriotism and their views about the Iraq War.

  4. I agree with Mr. Uhlendorf!!! Our country is at extreme distress , not only from the stand point of the Iraq war however. This country has become a shell of it’s former self in which our citizens were proud and didn’t cower down to anything. Political correctness. lawsuits, and this whole it’s all about me hippy-like attitude our country has embraced has gone to far. It has gotten to the point that our politicians won’t even make even the most simple of decisions, let alone be strong and patriotic enough within themselves to stand up for the true backbone of this country – THE WORK MAN!!!!!! remember the blue collar hard working Joe’s? People that keep the trucks of goods on the road, the Linemen (such as myself) that keep the power, telephone, and internet up and running so people can blog what a disgraceful country we live in or how this gentleman shows his means of protest…
    It seems to me the only people that would agree that what this gentleman is doing is wrong would be the same type of people that put us where we are to begin with. Wondering who I’m reffering to? Even if you are not I will tell you. All non-military enlisting citizens and the same persons who protested during the Vietnam conflict, who spit on the protecters of the fredoms they take for granted while draft dodging, those persons then became lawyers, doctors politicians, all while raising the so called “time out” generation… you know the young adults that want to make $100k a year and not have to work for it. The biggest issue I take with this country is that people don’t have the morals, ethics, respect, and patriotism we once held dear to our hearts. My hat is off to this gentleman and his protest stance. It is obvious that our beloved politicians are going to do nothing about the situation until it hits them in the pocketbooks like it has all of us such as in GAS PRICES!!! We are not over there to help a country gain it’s freedoms we are over there to line the rich man’s pocket as well as the politicians middle eastern buddies pockets! Get a clue America – wake up and smell the coffe before we go down in NO flames.

  5. The founding fathers of this country are rolling in their graves at what a mess their country that they bled for has become. this man is showing his concern for his country which he loves and to be outraged by the disgracefulness of his actions leaves you with nothing but ignorance in your hearts that you cant comprehend what this man is doing. If you think it is wrong to fly the flag in such a manor to show a distress for the well being of what it stands for then you should not call yourself a patriot cause you are nothing more than a self righteous american who is damning this country with your ignorance and your blurred vision of what is right. Protest should be without rules or restriction and if you think that this man should take the U.S. flag code into consideration when he makes his statement of distess well you can shove that flag code right up ur ass along with your amended constitution with which you wipe ass with anyway

  6. I have given serious thought to doing the same thing as Mr. Uhlendorf but with one difference. I am deeply upset by the ‘general’ state of this country and not just the war. We as Americans need to look hard and long at where we are and where we are going. If ever there was a moment for us to end our complacency and ‘protest’ those things we do not like, NOW is that moment. Rather than burning the American flag as others have done, where the attention is drawn more to the act and not the motive. I believe turning the flag upside down is a more respectful yet symbolic way of saying: ‘While I’m proud to live in this country, I’m NOT proud of the direction this country is headed!’ If that still offends some sensibilities, then might I suggest that you fly the Culpepper or Gadsden flag until such time as you see that things are truly right with the country but in the mean time, ‘Don’t tread on ME!’

  7. I absolutely agree with B. Donnell. Our dollar isn’t backed by gold thanks to Nixon, the IRS and Board of Education (which has killed our education) are unconstitutional. Taxes aren’t specified to the income of individuals on their wages ( (and no, the 16th amendment didn’t give the gov’t any more taxing powers than they previously had). Bush declared war without approval of congress, which is unconstitutional. Bush even said “It’s just a g*dd***ed piece of paper!” (do a quick search and you’ll find that).

    We are completely in a state of distress.

  8. I have a better idea…at least I think so. I want to fly my flag correctly so as not to disrespect it nor my country/countrymen. Therefore, it flies on a pole mounted to the LEFT porch post (when facing my house) and on the RIGHT post I am going to fly the Gadsden flag. Yellow field, snake, DTOM – Don’t Tread On Me. IMHO says it all.

  9. Posting your flag on the wrong side isn’t much better than flying it upside down.

    I think there are other, more appropriate ways to voice your disapproval of whatever, w/o resorting to improperly flying the US flag.

  10. I was very pleased to see so many people wrote in, in support of Mr. Uhlendorf! I agree with him that our country is in a state of distress. Larry Hendrick writes that Mr. Uhlendorf is wrong, and that he is “violating flag code.” What a laugh! Our president, vice president, secretary of defense and secretary of state all misled us, or lied to us, about the war in Iraq.
    Our government supports the torture of war captives. We have held hundreds of people captive at Guantanamo Naval Base, and denied them any sort of legal protection or recourse. And Larry Hendrick is concerned that Mr. Uhlendorf has violated “flag
    etiquette.” What a misguided notion of patriotism and respect for one’s country?
    I salute your efforts Mr. Uhlendorf. Gene Knelange, Gilbert, AZ.

  11. Happy Independence Day! Thank you leaving a comment, Mr. Knelange.

    While I prefer not to speak for Mr. Hendrick, I am on safe ground when I tell you that he and I believe our National flag transcends politics. We believe that when the flag is flown upside-down as a form of political protest—in effect—it dilutes the very statements one hopes to make. What a lame and lazy way to make a protest. Pissing off the neighbors? Honestly, does that really accomplish anything? In fact, the careful and thoughtful observance of the flag code carries far more weight within the community, state and country.

    I don’t know how Mr. Uhlendorf has resolved his issues (because the story dates to October 2007) but considering that flying the Stars and Stripes upside down is recognized as an international sign of distress—for every day that he flies the flag upside-down, he could be arrested and charged with making a false report.

  12. It works because it gets peoples’ attention and that is what we all need, the PEOPLES’ attention! We need to get their attention away from the mainstream media, sports and partying and get them focused on America. An upside down flag works because no matter how stupid most Americans are, we all know what our flag looks like (I hope!) And seeing it upside down raises questions, “why are you flying your flag upside down?” With regard to to danger of life and property – Well, quite a few people have lost their homes due to the booms and busts created by the Fed. Quite a few other people may lose their property due to the TTC in Texas. Life? As you read an increasing number of reports of people being killed or near killed with tasers, etc. for asserting their rights, then yes there is a definite call for distress and flying the flag upside down. Since putting the upside down flag as my default picture on myspace, I have gotten several messages asking me why. This works a lot better than saying something like “Congress passed HR 6304” to the average idiot. Fly your flag upside down and get the people to wake the f*ck up.

  13. We are in distress and need some kind of outside help to intervene. 911 was a federally fabricated con job- an inside job- a elaborate and sophisticated crime perpretrated by the powers that be in our own government. The WTC building beams showed physical evidence that they were cut in a controlled manner and had the explosive thermite on them. All THREE WTC buildings fell at free-fall speed with gravity in under 10 seconds. Prove me wrong. These are straight and sobering facts. Retired military officials who flew aircraft say there was no way Arab hijackers made those manuevers. Bin Laden was a CIA tactician/operative and became an easy patsy in the whole game, right Dick and George? Bin Laden will never be officially caught because he has damning evidence, and, most conveniantly, has been assigned the role as the “boogey man” to keep people in fear so Dick and Bush can control them easy. Mr. Laden will be mysteriously eliminated from the game, sooner or later. Wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. The president and VP need to come out with their hands up and lay face down on the white house lawn with a swat team surrounding them. They are the most un-pratriotic and dangerous people in this nation right now. They are the true terrorist. I think their 911 crime against the people is ENOUGH evidence. Why can’t people see that? They are sleeping sheep. The patriot act? What a joke! It’s a thin disguise to cover their crime. When facism comes to america, it will be covered in an american flag and carrying a cross. Those who are willing to give up some freedom and liberties to gain a little security deserve niether! I fly my flag upside down for the victims of the 911 hoax, and until Dick, Bush, and all their cronies are behind bars far away from where the can hurt people.
    US Army veteran, teacher, last real patriot

  14. @B. Donnell – You go! I was raised to be patriotic and I did my bit in Vietnam – then got spit on. At this point the flag should be upside down because this vessel is in extreme distress and will soon sink to socialism or worse. I love my county, but I fear my government.

  15. @Deborah Hendrick

    Than go arrest him . Ibelieve that not only is he correct he has the right I gave it to him by serving 13 years in the corps. This country is in great destressand danger. So not only do I support him I will join him . We are facing financial disaster aswell as national security disaster. We are thinking about electing a Marxist to the office of president who we know nothing about except he has the endosement of our enemies.

  16. This used to be my country but i’m not sure anymore, I don’t know this land anymore. I served this country with great pride in Vietnam and will always support my troops, but I will not support my government I don’t fear the government but i do at this point hate this government. I to fly my flag upside down with the Gadson flag above it for we are in dire distress in this once great land. I am by my standards a native american my family fought in the revolutionary war, and the civil war as well as every war after. We as a people need to wake up and take our country back, if it is not to late. GOD BLESS ALL OUR TROOPS.

Comments are closed.