Home / News / Two protests unite under common flag: Students, veterans and Valdosta citizens come to campus to support their cause

Two protests unite under common flag: Students, veterans and Valdosta citizens come to campus to support their cause

Written by: Jordan Barela, Digital Editor & John Stephen, Print Editor 

Hundreds of VSU students, alumni and Valdosta citizens gathered on VSU’s Pedestrian Mall Monday at 3 p.m. to show support for the American flag, in the exact same spot where Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart was detained by police on Friday for attempting to take the American flag from protesters who were walking on it.

Numerous American and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags waved in the wind as demonstrators united to show their opposition to protesters who walked on the American flag Friday.

“I’m out here today because my grandpa didn’t get shot at Pearl Harbor for someone to walk on my flag,” Kelley Neidlinger, senior history major, said. “I think walking on the flag is the most inhumane thing you can do. If another country walked on our flag, we would view them as terrorists, and I’m not sure why we’re not viewing (the original protesters) as terrorists as well.”

Students from the “Black Lives Matter” campaign also joined the flag supporters, holding signs promoting black justice.

“The (signs are) more or less to mitigate both sides here,” said Travis Edwards, anthropology major, as he held a “Black Lives Matter” sign. I don’t necessarily agree with the methods used by the original Black nationalists; however, I agree with their message that there is an extreme inequality problem and oppression problem in America.”

Protesters who walked on the American flag Friday were also on the Pedestrian Mall Monday, and two American flags lay on the ground as students argued with the original protesters on issues such as white privilege and the proper treatment of the American flag.

EJ Sheppard, a VSU student who walked on the American flag Friday, said white privilege still exists in America.

“White privilege is…(a) privilege that white people have that is allotted to them because of the system of white supremacy, which was built on African demise,” Sheppard said.

One VSU student, a white female, asked Sheppard what he sees when he looks at her.

“I do not see a friend,” Sheppard said. “I do not see a beneficiary to my existence. Especially if you’re not using your white privilege to take down the system of racism and white supremacy, which is plaguing my existence and the existence of my people.”

Sarah Cruz, sophomore legal assistant studies major, eventually picked up the American flag from the ground, folded it with the help of a nearby veteran, and held it throughout the protest.

Lenisa Farmer, junior mechanical engineering major, watched the protest as a bystander.

“I feel like (there are) a lot of emotions going on. It’s not about race right now. It’s about freedom; it’s about your rights.”

During the protest, people chanted “USA,” sang the national anthem and waved flags. Three vehicles pulled up alongside Odum Library with flags hanging off the vehicles.

A couple of students gave speeches to the crowds on the greatness of America and the need for all races to unite as one group.

“We want to show unity on campus, that we are all together,” Lewis Cureton, a member of VSU’s Black Student League, said.  “We are not divided by race, creed, color; we are united by the America we stand in, no matter the history it has.”

SGA President Tyler Barker attended the protest, but only to watch over students, he said.

“I respect the right of every U.S. citizen and their right to protest and their right to freedom of speech,” Barker said. “That’s not saying that I agree or disagree (with the protest). I’m just simply out here to make sure that the safety of our students is upheld.”

SGA Vice President Nicholas Buford also walked among the crowd on the Pedestrian Mall and expressed optimism regarding the protest.

“I feel very good about what I’m seeing, (which) is different students from different backgrounds together standing behind the flag,” Buford said. “I want it to be clear that the students who protested Friday, they are not a symbol of Black leadership on this campus, and they are not a top movement when it comes to civil rights on this campus.”

After chanting from the steps of Odum Library, most of the crowd moved to Palms Quad and continued the protest before the group disbanded. Others stayed behind, surrounding and debating with Sheppard and others from the group who walked on the American flag Friday.

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  1. As a member of the Armed Forces for 20 yrs I have to say that it’s a sad day in America when there are citizens of this great Nation who cannot show respect for something many Women and Men sacrificed so much for, Freedom. People toss that word around like it’s yesterdays news. What did you actually do for your Country to make it better for future generations? Oh, that’s right, you walked on the flag of the Nation that supports you. So let me ask you…did only white people sacrifice so that you can be free to do whatever you want to whoever you want whenever you want? NO, Black Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans were all PRIVILEGED to sacrificed at one time or another for you to be free! And this is how you show your gratitude? You can’t find another way to voice your opinions? I leave you with one charge….Do something great for your Country today, not because it benefits you, not because you’re passionate about it, do it simply because it’s RIGHT, not using shock and awe, but by using your skills, talents or knowledge and give back to the Country that gives you so much.

  2. Mr/Ms Langdale, That wasn’t meant to be racist. I think nearly every student at VSU is a recipient of some form of financial aid. Most are Hope/Pell recipients, which is explained during freshman orientation. This is more of a citizenship issue. If you step on the flag and spit on the country and its beliefs, then it is a bit hypocritical to eat the fruit of its citizen’s labor. I think in light of the recent developments of this person’s character, this should be further examined as to whether our VSU Department of African American Studies are indoctrinating our kids with this information and skewed history. Just listen to the young man’s rant. And when you do, remember all documents say Jesus was a Jew– not a Caucasian, European, or Cracker. I don’t expect you to apologize, but never be ashamed of being your color. I don’t blame you for being white and hold you responsible for your ancestors actions to my ancestors. White guilt is feeding this problem somewhat. Everyone needs to be proud of who they are and not their pigmentation. What constitutes equality?? I wish you peace.

  3. To the righteous protesters: If you really feel that way, support yourself then. Don’t be a slave to tuition assistance, loans, grants, and benefits afforded you by the racist taxpayers. If you want to make a statement, be a man and be self sufficient and proud. Don’t make excuses for failures and others lawlessness. What happened to “we shall overcome”? Can you overcome on your own, or do you need a little more financial aid from those you hate?

    • Typical racist to presume that just because those students are black, that they are depending on the state for financial aid. People like you make me ashamed to be white.

    • You nailed it. Should not complain about a country that has given you so much. It’s just about the same as protesting a good mother. Really sad individuals. Truth is, they know they would not go to any other country in the world, even if we paid for their ticket.

      • I have been the daughter of a vet the sister of a vet the wife of a vet and now the
        grandmother of a vet. protesting is good. but when you pull a stunt like this then the issue
        you are trying to get people to hear you own becomes overshadowed by your own disregard
        of people as a whole we are not bananas we do not come in bunches. so protest on but
        as the intelligent people you are and let the issues step on toes not flags

      • Thank you. I hope you agree with my message below.

  4. You people seem to value a symbol of freedom more than the freedom itself. You seem to completely miss the point of freedom, and what was actually fought for. Also when did it become ok to take people’s property from them when they aren’t using it to cause physical harm to anyone with it? You’re getting emotional about a mass produced piece of cloth, you guys need to grow up.

    Princples should always outweigh symbols.

    • So very true. Freedom of speech is not freedom to the speech you like, and restriction of the speech you dislike.

      Mike, Paul and Barry, you should study constitution more to understand what the freedom of speech truly means. You cannot claim you are defending the freedom with your flesh, while desecrate freedom with your words.

      • R. Langdale you cling to the constitution as though you think it is being followed today? I said nothing that had anything to do with his freedom of speech. They were protesting white supremacy and oppression. I stated my view on who I feel is doing the opreasing.oh I see that freedom doesn’t apply to the white man. Or am I a black man? It makes no difference R langdale this is not about race to an American, it is about the flag.

  5. I pledge allegiance to the flag for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.I pledge to defend the United States of America from all enemies ,foreign and domestic……

    what allegiance does a protester pledge when they walk on the United States of America flag??? Self service…. me first…. they serve no one or no thing other than self…. very sad. If they have no pride in this nation… leave. Mexico will take you…. American Veteran. ..

    • Paul Mgee very well said. I thank you for your service. That is exactly what their message is. Blind eyes are turned to the real root cause of this so called oppression. If they would protest in front of a mirror and spout the rhetoric my son has told me he heard, then and only then will they see just who is oppressing them. White privilege if it even exists has nothing to do with it. We are all created equal. But what each individual does from that point is entirely on them. May god bless you and yours and this still proud nation.

    • Exactly. No one ask themselves what they can do for their country anymore. It’s me, me, me, me. JFK would be ashamed.

  6. Mr. Lewis, get your facts straight, Ms. Manhart did not pose with flag in playboy, it was a year later, and flag was treated with respect afterwards. She did not trample on it. It was used as a symbol of how this country can be your symbol of no matter what you lose, you can depend on the country. I saw a lot of coffins draped with this symbol, during the Vietnam war, black, white, male, female. all as a symbol of how much this country appreciates its citizens. My father was on Iwo Jima, when the flag was raised, he knew at that point we had won a battle to keep this country free. I fought for your right to protest. but when you use a symbol of this great nation as a sign of disrespect. You cross the line. Try a protest like that in Africa, saudia Arabia, or any other Isis controlled nation and see where you end up. I will defend your right to protest, but not to disrespect the symbol of freedom, and the great nation I live in.

    • No one forced you to go to war to fight for anyone, so don’t try and throw that in anyone’s face.

      Just because you went off to kill people that don’t know anything about and couldn’t care less about the average American, does not mean that you have defended American freedoms.

      • You should be ashamed of making a comment like that to a veteran. WW2 and Vietnam both drafted men to fight in the war and defend our country. There’s no telling what this world would look like if we hadn’t fought in WW2.

        • Tim, I could not agree more. I really worry about our future generations. I think the fact we have tried to make things so much better for them has backfired. Hard work, a little suffering, intense responsibility, and morality is being pushed to the side and we are starting to see the repercussions of it. Let me thank all our service men and women. God bless you and God bless America.

  7. The Supreme Court already ruled that any laws banning the desecration of the U.S. flag are unconstitutional. I don’t know how it can be any clearer than that. Students have a right to protest on both sides of this issue, but I can’t help but feel like Michelle Manhart is using this as a springboard to launch herself into the public eye, especially considering she seemed to think the flag was doing well enough on the ground when she posed nude with it for Playboy in 2007.

    There seems to be a lot of blind nationalism reverberating around the mall on campus today. Labeling the original protesters “terrorists” hardly seems like an intelligent decision. It should be understood that all people have a right to free speech, especially the ones that disagree with you.

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