#NoFlaggingChallenge dares people to tear down others' Confederate flags

A social media trend is encouraging people to remove privately owned Confederate battle flags that are on display on homes and vehicles.

Adam Anderson Photo/Reuters
Bree Newsome takes down the Confederate Flag from a pole at the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. Newsome was later arrested for her action.

For those who find the decline in support for the Confederate battle flag to be proceeding too slowly, here's an alternative that is quick, direct, illegal, and likely to provoke rage.

The No Flagging Challenge dares people to destroy privately owned Confederate battle flags displayed on people's homes and vehicles.

According to the hashtag tracking site Keyhole, the tag #NoFlaggingChallenge appeared Sunday, with most of its activity coming from Vine. About two-thirds of those posting videos are male. A similar tag #ConfederateTakedown is also popular on Twitter, but that tag is mainly geared towards legally removing the flags from public buildings.

Emotions are running high over this issue, as evidenced by the influx of complaints and news stories.

Over the weekend, Wallingford, Conn., police were dispatched, following reports of a flea market merchant selling Nazi and Confederate memorabilia, according to local media.

No arrests were made because no laws were broken. The items were being sold on private property by Military Specialties, Inc. which sells historical military objects, including those produced by the Third Reich and reproductions of those produced by the Confederacy.

The No Flag Challenge may have been sparked by the act of civil disobedience demonstrated by Bree Newsome of Charlotte, N.C., who climbed a flagpole to remove the Confederate battle flag at a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., last month and turned into a nationwide assault on flags flying on personal property.

But Heidi Beirich, who directs the Intelligence Project for The Southern Poverty Law Center, is quick to make a distinction between Ms. Newsome’s actions and those seeking to destroy private property.

“This is not civil disobedience because you’re attacking a person and their stuff, and not the government,” she says in an interview.

Ms. Beirich speculates that these new stunts may have been triggered by the pro-Confederate battle flag rally held over the weekend in Ocala, Fla., attracting thousands of supporters and flags.

“This angry thing in Ocala and this 'Tear down the flag' thing show just how awful our racial conversation is, that people are going to lengths that they’re going to be in your face, whether it’s taking the flag down or shoving it in a black neighborhood’s face,” Ms. Beirich says.

“Our language around race, our situation around race has gotten so much worse," she says. "We’ve stifled this for so long that these mean elements are just coming out... We’re still fighting the Civil War, which is ridiculous.”

Those who fly the Confederate flags, she says, see the anti-flag movement as "an out-of-control cultural cleansing campaign. It’s not just about symbolic flags on state houses or court houses. This is about attacking private property, shutting down speech and so on.”

But Beirich is adamantly against attacks on personal property.

“The flag on public property is one thing. It’s not helping the debate when it’s private property,” says Beirich. “Personal anything is out of bounds. Just don’t do it. It’s completely inappropriate. Completely unacceptable. You may not like that flag, but you don’t have any right to tear it down from someone’s front yard – just like they can’t do it to you if they don’t like what you’re displaying. You wouldn’t want your rainbow flag or political sign torn down from your home.”

Many on Twitter are expressing concerns that those vandalizing the flags on private property will suffer at the hands of angry property owners and the law.

Asked if she thinks those engaging in this new campaign could be in danger of being attacked, Beirich says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if violence broke out. Tempers are hot, to say the least.”

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