Georgia police detained an Air Force veteran after she intervened in a protest where demonstrators were walking on an American flag, and a cell phone video captured footage of the altercation.
Michelle Manhart is a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and when she saw a friend post a photo to Facebook showing protesters walking on an American flag she decided to do something about it.
Manhart said she repeatedly asked Valdosta State University to stop the protesters from using the flag in their protest, as she felt it was disgraceful to treat the flag that way. Friday, Manhart took matters into her own hands when no one else did.
The video shows Manhart debating with the protesters as she clutches the tattered flag in her hands.
During the altercation, Manhart explains that she was trying to take the flag in order to properly dispose of it since it’s been torn and ripped. When the protesters argued that she stole their property, she responded, “This flag belongs to, actually, the entire United States.”
The police tried to take the flag from Manhart to give it back to the protesters, which caused a scuffle leading to Manhart’s arrest after four police officers had to intervene and tackle Manhart to the ground.
Since the police first tried to talk her into handing them the flag, protesters were quick to call the event evidence of racism.
“Is that not theft?” a voice off-camera asks police. “If this had been in the hood you would’ve had a n***a in some handcuffs right now. Look at that white privilege.”
Manhart had a response she gave later in regards to their cries of racism.
“If your cause is racism then find some white people and walk on them. But to walk on the flag is walking on our symbol of freedom. You have the freedom to do what you are doing because of it. I’m not fighting against them. I’m fighting against the way they are going about it.”
Police explained to Manhart’s daughter that they arrested Manhart.
Officer: “Because when we told her to release [the flag], she did not.”
Daughter: “So you arrested her because she wouldn’t release the flag to the people who had it on the ground.”
Officer: “No, to me.”
Daughter: “She wouldn’t release it to you?”
Officer: “Exactly–to the officers who asked to return property that does not belong to her.”
The Daily Times reported that after Manhart was cuffed and taken away, police asked to see IDs of the assembled protesters, and when the protesters refused they were asked to disperse.
Manhart was released because the protesters and the officers declined to press charges for theft and resisting arrest. However, the university has issued a criminal trespass warning, which prohibits Manhart from stepping foot on campus.
However, she says she would do it again.
“When it comes to the flag, it’s our iconic symbol. It stands for everything that we are. It stands for freedom to allow those individuals to do what they want, protest… so how are you even going to justify ruining or walking upon something that’s giving you the right to do what you’re doing?”
Manhart is no stranger to controversy. The former Air Force Staff Sergeant was honorably discharged with an option to reapply again for posing nude for Playboy in 2007.
The university president released a statement, saying in part: “While I firmly disagree with the actions of the protesters, I understand their right to protest.”
The school is expecting veterans groups to protest on campus on Monday, and they said they will respect their right to do so.