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Source: Las Cruces Sun-News
Date: November 7, 2008
Byline: Shari Vialpando and Diana M. Alba

Las Cruces veteran upends flag to protest Obama

LAS CRUCES — If you happened to drive by Las Crucen Lou Schrader's house Wednesday, you probably saw his American flag flying upside-down on a pole in the front yard.

It wasn't by accident.

Schrader, 59, flew the flag upside-down for a day in protest of the election of Barack Obama as president. He's calling the move a political statement against Obama's platform.

Schrader, who lives on Ethel Avenue, said he also flew his flag upside-down both times Bill Clinton was elected.

"We have descended into a one-political-party nation," he said. "The Democrats have taken over everything. We're going to be taxed out of existence."

Schrader assures his action was not racially motivated.

"It's not that I'm a racist; I just don't like this guy as an individual," he said. "Some of the things Barack Obama said during his campaign has scared me to death, (such as) "let's spread the wealth.' Excuse me, that's socialism."

Schrader, a former member of the Navy, said he's concerned Obama "hates the military."

The flag wasn't flying Thursday. Schrader said he only flies it on federal holidays and in protest of certain presidents winning office.

Schrader lives across the street from three Obama supporters, who happen to be black.

Neighbor Dimitris Kollaros, 32, seemed to be taking Schrader's action with a grain of salt.

"We were laughing about it all day long," said Kollaros, interviewed Wednesday evening. "Now that there's an African-American president, he's protesting the U.S., and I think it's funny because, if you love your country, you love it no matter what."

Kollaros said he backs freedom of speech, but flying the flag upside-down shouldn't be done lightly because it could send the wrong message.

"We've got to be careful about how we do that, because we don't want to offend people," he said.

Robert Pritchet, 30, who described himself as "open-minded," said he's personally not offended by the upside-down flag, but it opens up the door for other people, especially veterans, to be.

"I think he could have done something different," he said. "That could have been offensive; that's the symbol of the United States."

Pritchet and Kollaros said they get along with Schrader and have known him since they moved into the neighborhood two years ago. They said they're aware he's a military veteran and think his service in the military should have given him more respect for the office of president, not less.

"George Bush didn't do much for this country, but you have to respect the guy because of the office he holds," Kollaros said. "Obama hasn't taken office yet. Give him a chance. If Obama doesn't hold true to his word, then we're going to protest."

According to U.S. Code, which contains laws about handling the American flag, the flag shouldn't be displayed upside-down "except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property."

Las Cruces police showed up at Schrader's home Wednesday to check whether the flag was a distress signal.

According to www.ushistory.org, there aren't penalties for violating the flag code, and the U.S. Supreme Court "has ruled that politically motivated violations of the flag code are protected by the First Amendment."

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