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Valdosta State Stands Behind Flag-Trampling Protesters

As demonstrators trampled an American flag at Valdosta State University, military veteran Michelle Manhart grabbed it, igniting a free-speech debate.
Posted at 12:33 PM, Apr 20, 2015

At Valdosta State University in Georgia, it may not be about what's respectful. The debate is now about what the law allows.

So on Friday, police detained military veteran Michelle Manhart after she grabbed an American flag protesters were walking on. 

Manhart told The Valdosta Daily Times she never intended to get involved with the protest until a student called her to complain about the flag being trampled. She says she then went over to pick up the flag. 

"When it comes to the flag, it's our iconic symbol. It stands for everything that we are," Manhart told Fox News

It's still unclear what the demonstrators were using the flag for.

The Valdosta Daily Times says the demonstrators did not show their student IDs to police and were asked to leave shortly after Manhart's arrest.

Valdosta State University's President William J. McKinney is supporting their right to protest saying, "While I firmly disagree with the actions of the protesters, I understand their right to protest."

Though that didn't seem to sit well with many on Facebook, where the statement was posted by the university. While some supported the university's stance, the top two comments on the Facebook post both criticize McKinney's stance and have each earned well over 3,000 likes.

Now, it's true the Supreme Court has ruled flag burning as protected symbolic speech under the First Amendment. But it's also true that federal flag code suggests proper disposal of worn or soiled flags.

Manhart's past is coming into the spotlight after the incident. She was demoted and ultimately got a voluntary discharge from the military in 2007 after she appeared nude for Playboy. Media outlets, as well as commenters, are bringing that back to light. 

And speaking of flags, there's this campaign she did for PETA, leaving some commenters to accuse her of hypocrisy.

Manhart was not charged with any crime in the Valdosta State incident. She says she has no regrets about the ordeal. 

This video includes an image from U.S. Air Force / Master Sgt. Ken Wright.