Upside Down Flags, Venting Frustrations, Fueling Flames

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -  We got a phone call in the newsroom from a KLTV viewer after he saw an American flag flying upside down from a flag pole outside Tyler.  We followed up on that call, and found not just one flag, but two flying upside down in different parts of Smith County.  The flags belong to two brothers, determined to let their flags fly, despite other peoples objections.

Ronald Fleming said his flag has flown upside down for the past six months.  He said it's his way of raising awareness to certain issues facing the country.

"Look at what's going on in the White House," he said.  "Look at the taxes, jobless, you're bailing out GM...I think everybody feels that we're in distress."

It is not illegal to fly an American flag upside down, but according to flag etiquette, the American flag is only flown upside down as a sign of extreme distress.

Earlier this month, police in a northern Wisconsin town seized, and later had to return a man's flag.  It was being flown upside down in protest.

"I think everybody ought to flip it upside down, maybe more people would get the idea," said Fleming.

Ronald said his brother, Lenard did just that.  Lenard said the message goes beyond politics.

"I really couldn't care less about who's in the White House, [or] Congress because they're all a bunch of crooks," he said.

Lenard is a former member of the Air Force.  He said he inverted his flag on July 4th.

"This flag's upside down for 'Joe' the plumber, Lenard the exterminator," he said.  "If you get out of the way of the American people, the working man of this country will dig us out of this hole."

Ronald Fleming said some people may take offense because they don't know what the symbol means.

Ronnie North, a veteran, said he knows what it means to him.

"When you fly our flag upside down, you're disrespecting our country and everything it stands for, and every veteran that fought or served," he said.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.