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Upside down American Flag raises neighbor's ire | April 7 2004

Richard Evey is proud of his brand new American flag.

Even though he’s flying it upside down.

His Westbrook subdivision neighbors don’t share his pride.

“I think it’s downright disrespectful,” said Michael Grantham who lives diagonally across the street.

Grantham, a student at Craven Community College, is barely half Evey’s age, but his background includes a healthy knowledge of flag etiquette and patriotism. As an Eagle Scout in a military town, he’s convinced Evey’s upside down flag shows a lack of patriotism.

“I’m not the only one,” he said. “One of our neighbors called the police about it.”

Police chief Mike Campbell says calling the police won’t rotate Evey’s stars and bars 180 degrees.

“My father fought in several wars during his Marine Corps days,” said Campbell. “As an individual, I can tell you I don’t particularly like it [Evey’s upside down flag], but as police chief I recognize he has a right to express his opinion.”

Evey says his decision to buy a brand new flag from E.T.’s Military Surplus and deliberately fly it upside down followed months of deliberation.

“It’s a signal of distress,” he said. “I’m convinced that our country is in distress because our government has run amuck.”

Evey said his attitude is best described by an old saying: “I love my country, but fear my government.”

“Even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks our government has been slowly taking away our rights, and now, with the Patriot Act, our government has been moving towards becoming a police state.”

Evey said he has been in contact with a friend on the Internet who runs a Website dedicated to constitutional issues. That friend has also been flying his flag upside down.

“He caught holy heck for it,” said Evey. “I thought long and hard before I decided to voice my opinion, but then one day I said to myself it’s time to take a stand.”

He readily admits his greatest worry, that the Patriot Act is “a massive violation of the Constitution” is debatable.

“But that’s the point,” he said. “Somebody has to start the debate. You’re going to see more and more of these upside down flags across the country, and we’re going to start the dialogue, one community at a time.”

Bud Webster, owner of the military surplus store where Evey purchased his flag, wishes Evey “had found some other way to express his concerns.”

Webster, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant with nearly three years service in Vietnam and two Purple Hearts to show for it, said he draws the line between political protest and what most of his fellow Marines would call “a desecration of our national flag.”

“I don’t care for what he’s doing, but I would never say he’s being un-American,” said Webster.

“Combat veterans from my war and the ones before it fought for the freedoms Americans enjoy today,” he said. “And those rights include freedom of speech, and the right to protest.

“I don’t care for the way Richard has chosen to protest, and I wish he had found some other way, but hey — contrary to what he might be saying, this is a free country after all.”