As protestors gather in the streets
of cities throughout the country following the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd
, who died after a police officer pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, at least one local resident is choosing to protest from inside his own home. But his method of doing so has drawn complaints and criticism from his neighbors.
Stephen Siemsen, who lives in Quail Meadows East—a manufactured home park off South College Drive in Santa Maria—displays an American flag upside-down in a window of his home. Siemsen said he decided to hang the flag this way following President Donald Trump’s photo-op at a church near the White House on Monday evening.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHEN SIEMSEN
STAY-AT-HOME PROTEST Neighbors who live near veteran Stephen Siemsen have complained about his decision to display an upside down American flag as part of the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
According to national media reports
, police officers used tear gas to clear out people who were peacefully protesting outside the White House prior to the president walking to a nearby church with a Bible in his hand. Siemsen, who served in the U.S. Army for 34 years, was also appalled by Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 in order to deploy federal troops to suppress riots in cities throughout the country.
“My Army is being used against my fellow citizens,” Siemsen said.
Siemsen, like his father and grandfather, entered the Army through the draft. During his decades of service, he learned that the Army doesn’t serve a flag or a president. Rather, he said, the Army serves the Constitution. His decision to turn the flag upside-down is an extension of this belief: He doesn’t support the president, but he supports the country.
But not all of his neighbors see the situation the same way. At least one neighbor who spoke to Siemsen said he doesn’t think the flag should be displayed upside-down. Others have driven by his house and scowled at him for the display.
After receiving complaints from residents in the park, Quail Meadows East manager Julie Johnson sent Siemsen an email requesting him to take the flag down or fly it right-side up. Johnson declined to comment on the situation when reached by phone.
In the email, which Siemsen shared with the Sun, Johnson cited a federal code regarding respect for the American flag.
“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,” the code states.
Johnson also cited park rules and regulations that state residents and guests may not engage in conduct that constitutes as a “substantial annoyance” to other residents.
“There have been multiple complaints about the American Flag being flown upside-down,” Johnson said in the email. “Many residents are finding this very disrespectful, offensive, and consider this annoying conduct.”
Siemsen said that he’s well aware of the language in the flag code, and that from what he’s seen and read, an extreme danger to lives and property exists throughout the country.
For Siemsen, this is a way for him to protest while still abiding by the statewide stay-at-home order. As for his neighbors who are complaining about the way he’s chosen to display his flag, they’re missing the point, Siemsen said. Similar to how people only focusing on the looting are also missing the point, ignoring the thousands of people protesting peacefully throughout the country.
“Some in my neighborhood are discussing the flag, but not the reason why it is displayed as it is—the same with the looting,” Siemsen said. “This is a distraction from the real issues confronting our country.” ∆