The American flag outside of Dr. Donald Allen’s veterinary office is like any other flying outside of a business, except it’s upside down.
That motivated Steve Senanefes, of Salem, and three other people to protest outside of Allen’s practice at Market Street and Maple Drive on Monday, when Veterans Day was observed.
“Basically in my eyes that is disrespecting the flag and those who put their lives down for it,” said Senanefes, who served in the Marine Corps from 2002 to 2005.
Allen has flown the flag upside down since March because he does not agree “with the direction the country is going.” The secondary flag had been the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, but Allen recently changed it to the Culpeper flag that reads “Liberty or Death.”
“It’s certainly not disrespectful,” Allen said of the inverted flag. “It’s a signal of distress.”
Allen served on active duty from 1967 to 1971 and retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve in 2010. He said his decision to fly the flag upside down is a form of free speech, and he is protesting what he believes is shift in government policy from favoring individualism to collectivism. Allen describes his political views as conservative independent and favors abolishing income tax in favor of a consumption tax.
Senanefes referenced the National Flag Code that states “the flag shall never be displayed union [or stars] down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
“He is doing this for a strictly political agenda. I’ll be honest with you; I’m not happy with everything going on in the country, but that’s not the way to go about it. Talk, put signs up, but leave the flag alone,” he said.
Allen said he would have kept the flag inverted even if President Barack Obama lost re-election.
“It doesn’t matter which [political] party it is. ...I will keep the flag inverted until I can breathe the free air of liberty once again,” he said.
Allen said he’s had about 20 phone calls at his practice about the flag. He said photos of it on social media drew comments from people around the world — and he said not all were civil.
Allen filed a police report Nov. 5 that he was being threatened online with harm to himself and his property.
Senanefes said to his knowledge, there’s been nothing he would consider serious online.
“I haven’t seen anything life-threatening. It’s been people posting ‘We want to take your flag and fix it for you.’ I don’t want trouble, I just want the flag right,” he said.
He insists that he is not infringing on Allen’s constitutional rights.
“I was a Marine and I put my life on the line, not just for the country but for that flag. We’re taught when you refer to the flag, it’s your flag. [Allen] can talk all he wants,” Senanefes said.