Last week, Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart found herself under arrest after she tried to rescue the American flag from being walked on by “protesters” at Valdosta State University in Georgia. (LU had the story here.) Although Manhart was released, she was banned from the campus afterward.
America was treated to the spectacle of the campus police wresting the flag from her so that they could hand it back over to the “protesters” to be walked and stomped on again. Administering free speech can be an ugly, ridiculous business.
Georgia patriots decided not to take this lying down. On the theory that the right answer to “speech” is “more speech,” they planned a rally today — Friday, 24 April — next to the Valdosta State campus to honor the flag.
The VSU authorities knew they’d have a big turn-out on their hands. The “protesters” who walked on the flag last week numbered three. VSU is figuring on about 4,000 for today’s rally, which started a couple of hours ago. So the university cancelled classes for the day.
[U]niversity administrators said it was the possibility of thousands of people rallying on the outskirts of campus Friday that ultimately led to the decision to give students a day off.
“That level of traffic and that many people will disrupt a lot of things in the city,” Clark said. “We’re from an overall safety perspective looking to close the campus down today so they can have a peaceful rally.”
Misfortune, meanwhile, continues to dog the original “protesters”:
[T]ensions were heightened at Valdosta State when campus police found a backpack containing a handgun Tuesday. Police said they traced the gun to a protester who was part of the flag-walking demonstration, and they issued a warrant for Eric Sheppard’s arrest on charges of bringing a firearm onto a college campus. Sheppard fled and has not been found by authorities, Clark said.
The rally was organized under the name “Flags over VSU,” and you can find a nice selection of inspiring images on Twitter, including the ones here. Happy Friday.