South Carolina Sheriff Rick Clark is drawing national attention after refusing to fly his office’s flag at half-staff in honor of Nelson Mandela because the human rights leader was not an American.
According to The Associated Press, Clark, sheriff of Pickens County, explained the decision on Facebook: “Nelson Mandela
did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!!”
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The post attracted national attention and has since been deleted.
He made the decision despite an order from President Barack Obama’s office that flags be flown at half-staff until sunset on Monday.
In interviews, Clark said the “order” from Obama’s office is not a law but a proclamation, the AP said. The flag outside the sheriff’s office was at half-staff Friday because of a police officer killed on duty and also Saturday for Pearl Harbor Day.
Clark’s decision and subsequent interviews earned him both accolades and criticism. On his Facebook page
, many posted their support. “Rick, you do what is right no matter what anyone else says! Make us proud. Our flag is for our citizens and our country!” wrote one commenter.
"Thousands of brave men and women have died defending our country and our freedoms. If we don't lower the flag for them, why should we lower them for a foreign dignitary?" wrote another.
But others posted their opposition to his decision. "We here in South Carolina deserve better. Sheriff Clark should apologize to all in South Carolina for using his office for such a shameful display of ignorance and bigotry. You do NOT speak for us!"
Many online pointed to the issue of racism in Clark’s decision, but in interviews, Clark said he would have made the same decision when Pope John Paul II died had he been in the sheriff’s office then, the AP said. Clark has been in office one year.
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