In reaction to President Barack Obama’s reelection, Navy veteran Philip Hoezel flew his American flag upside down last Wednesday in protest outside his Florida home. The political statement was met with stiff opposition from his Fleming Island neighbors, particularly other former veterans, in what has been described as a patriotic community.
“It's very disturbing . . . You know 26 years in the Navy, current Navy guy and I thought it was an accident," neighbor Mike Walter said in an interview with CBS affiliates Tampa Bay News Ten
. "Then I did a little research and I realized people are doing this in protest and I just can't believe that on Veterans Day you would be so petty as to fly your flag upside down.”
Similarly, Deb Hand, another neighbor of Hoezel, added, “I think there's a lot more positive ways to express it. I don't think that's really helping anyone and I think it's probably hurting a lot of people's feelings.”
The uproar over upside down flags isn't limited to Hoezel's Fleming Island neighborhood. Similar reports have surfaced out of Palm Bay.
“We served for the right of people to express themselves. It is a disrespect to the flage,” Thomas Moore, a Navy veteran, told Florida Today
. His neighbor also flew the flag upside down.
Hoezel defended his decision, and echoed the sentiments of those displaying their flag unconventionally.
“Under the conditions normally set for the military at sea, if you fly your flag upside down on a ship, it means you're in distress," Hoezel said. "I think this country is in distress… I figure if they can burn the flag, if they can spit on it, if they can put it down as a doormat, why can't I fly it upside down?”
During the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, activists burnt and defaced American flags in the streets. They were protesting capitalism, U.S. foreign policy and various other political issues that ran contrary to their beliefs.
In response to the criticisms from his neighbors, Hoezel told News Ten his intention was not to disrespect the flag, adding that he has respect for the holiday and country.
The protest, according to Hoezel, will continue uninterrupted for the next four years until Obama leaves the oval office.
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