Woman arrested after trying to stop flag desecration

(FCN) VALDOSTA, Ga. -- A Facebook video posted on Friday has gotten wide circulation. It depicts a woman attempting to take a flag from protesters who were placing it on the ground and stepping on it at Valdosta State University.

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The woman can be seen in the video becoming upset with the protesters' actions and, later, police attempts to get her to release her grip on the flag. Melissa Manhart, is an Air Force veteran according to the Valdosta Daily Times, and was eventually put in handcuffs and placed in the back of a police cruiser.

Near the end of the video, another woman can be heard asking the UPD officers, "Is there a reason you didn't stick up for her grabbing the flag?"

The officer replied that they arrested the woman because she didn't not comply with them, not for defending the flag. "[She did not return the flag] to the officer lawfully asking her to return the property that does not belong to her," he said.

The video shows Manhart arguing with an unnamed protester - the protester asks for her property back, to which Manhart responds, "this belongs to the entire United States."

WARNING - there is coarse language at several points in the video.

At the core of the dispute is a longstanding debate about flag desecration. Under Georgia code Section 50-3-9, "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to mutilate, deface, defile, or abuse contemptuously the flag of the United States."

However, a Supreme Court case from 1984, Texas v. Johnson, protects flag desecration as a First Amendment right, effectively making the anti-desecration laws in 47 states unenforceable. The officers in the video can be heard attempting to retrieve the protesters' property - that is, the flag.

The Valdosta Daily Times reports that Manhart has been trespassed from campus, meaning she is not allowed to return to Valdosta State University, but no charges are being filed by either the protesters or the university police department.


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