Tenant Banned from Flying Flag Upside Down, Gets Death Threat
Meet Dale Decker, 31.
He lives in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, about an hour north of Milwaukee.
On June 25, he decided to fly the American flag upside down on the patio of his apartment.
Decker is upset about the Iraq War, he's upset about the loss of civil liberties in the United States, he's upset about the plans he says are under way for a North American Union with Canada and Mexico, and he's upset about our economy. He himself is unemployed.
"People in power are not looking after the people's best interests but their own interests and their corporate cronies' interests," he says. "It's really sad. I've got two children, a six year old and a five year old. I love them to death, but I fear for the future that beholds them."
He says he wanted to signal to his neighbors that this country is in distress, so he started flying the flag upside down.
Two days later, Manitowoc police officer Jason Delsman came to his door. But Decker was at Wal-Mart, so, Delsman left his business card with a handwritten note, "Call ASAP."
Decker decided to go down to the police department, but Officer Delsman was out, so Decker called him on the phone from there.
"He told me I was committing a criminal act and could face fines or imprisonment," Decker said.
When Decker asked for the statute criminalizing this, he says Officer Delsman responded: "I'm sure that it is somewhere."
According to Decker, the officer also said: "You fly your flag at night with no light on it. The next time I see that I'll have to do something about it."
Decker says he stood his ground: "I told him, 'I know I'm not breaking the law, but if you can come to my house and show me the statute, I'll take my flag down. Otherwise, I'll keep flying it.' "
Sarah Millard, who covered the story for the Manitowoc Herald Times, reported that "Deputy Chief Bridget Brennan said Delsman was responding to a complaint received from the public. She confirmed the request was made to remove the flag, but said Decker was not warned or threatened with a citation or criminal charges. No paperwork was filed on the incident, she said."
About fifteen minutes after Decker returned home from the police station, he says the manager of the apartment complex came over and knocked on his door.
"She proceeded to berate me," he says. "She called me an asshole. She proceeded to explain to me that I was disgracing my country, my fellow citizens, and the soldiers who so valiantly fought and died and are now fighting and dying for our freedoms."
He says she told him that "the owners of the complex, Premier Real Estate, have demanded that all flags on the property have to be take down, even those that are rightside up. She showed me the lease that says you can't attach anything to their property."
Paul Lee, regional manager of Premier Real Estate, told the AP: "We certainly have no objection if it [flying the flag] was done properly. . . . We would have a problem with anyone showing disrespect."
Decker says the one other tenant who was flying a flag, rightside up, no longer is.
Decker isn't flying his, either.
"I had to take it down because I can't afford to have my family evicted," he says.
But he hasn't given up on expressing himself with the flag.
"I just put my flag union down on my pole and walk around town," he says.
The reaction has not been positive.
"I didn't know that in the land of the free that a peaceful act of patriotism could bring out such violent tendencies in people," he says. Decker says he's been called "asshole, dickhead, cocksucker," and a lot of other names.
He says one man, with a kid between the ages of 8 and 11, went after him in the parking lot at McDonald's, saying, "I'm going to come over to your house and kick your ass right now." The man also said, according to Decker, "If you keep up what you're doing, a vet is going to find you and put a bullet in your head."
Nonetheless, Decker says he's determined to walk around town again with his upside down flag.
"Because it's my right," he says. "I am doing it to upset people. You've got to get down to their core."
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.
© 2008 The Progressive