U.S. Flag Legends

A Flag Day collection of legends associated with the Stars & Stripes.

  • Published 27 January 2003

A Flag Day collection of legends associated with the Stars & Stripes.


Flag Day, established in 1916 by proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson (and signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1949), commemorates the adoption of the design of the U.S. flag on 14 June 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.

According to legend, George Washington commissioned Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to create the first flag for the new nation in 1776. Surprisingly, the arrangement of the stars on the blue canton of the U.S. flag varied according to flag-makers’ preferences until President Taft finally standardized it, designating that the then-new flag’s forty-eight stars should be displayed in six rows of eight. To date there have been twenty-seven official versions of the U.S. flag, with the current version having been adopted on 4 July 1960 to incorporate the inclusion of a star for Hawaii (which became the fiftieth state on 21 August 1959).

In honor of Flag Day, we present here a collection of some of the legends associated with the Stars & Stripes that have been added to the pages of snopes.com over the years.

Claim:   Flag protocol specifies that a U.S. flag should be burned if it has been allowed to touch the ground.

 

Origins:    One of the signs of creeping old fogeyism is finding out how many of the irrefutable truths we learned as youths turned out to be false. Today’s being Flag Day reminds me of yet another cardinal rule I assimilated as a child which I later discovered was wrong: that if an American flag is allowed to touch the ground, it should be burned.

The rules we observe with respect to our flag are laid out in the U.S. Code. (These codes specify how the flag should be displayed, but they do not establish any enforcement of legal penalties against those who violate them.) The notion that the U.S. flag should be burned after touching the ground is a long-held misconception based upon a conflation of two different parts of the flag code.

Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Code (“Respect for flag“) states in paragraph (b) that:

The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

And in paragraph (k) it states:

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

The fallacy about burning a ground-touched flag arises from the mistaken beliefs that a flag which has been allowed to touch the ground is no longer “suitable for display” and must therefore be destroyed, and that the only proper form of disposal for a flag is to burn it. These beliefs reflect a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the flag code.

Although the flag should never be allowed to touch anything beneath it (including the ground), it is not automatically rendered unfit for display should this situation occur. The proper course of action in such a case is simply to adjust the flag, or the item(s) below it, so that they are no longer touching. Even if the flag has become soiled from contact with the ground (or something else) to the extent that it is no longer suitable for display, it need not be disposed of: it is perfectly permissible to wash or dry clean a dirty flag in order to render it fit for display again. The flag need be destroyed only when it has become irreparably unsuitable for display due to circumstances such as fading, tattering, tearing, staining, partial burning, mutilation, or defacement.

Also, burning is not the only acceptable method of disposing of a flag, just the preferred one. The intent of the code specifying a “dignified way” of disposal is to prevent a no-longer-usable flag from ending up in an undignified setting, such as being dumped into a trash can amidst a bunch of rotting garbage or thrown atop a junk heap. Destroying the flag by burning it ensures that the flag will not end up in such surroundings. Many civic associations (e.g., Boy Scouts, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion) will accept non-serviceable flags for proper disposal.

american flag facts and legends

Claim:    Texas’ is the only state flag authorized to be flown at the same height as the U.S. national flag.

 

Example:    [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag. Think about that for a second. You fly the Stars and Stripes at 20 feet in Maryland, California, or Maine and your state flag, whatever it is, goes at 17 feet. You fly the Stars and Stripes in front of Pine Tree High in Longview at 20 feet, the Lone Star flies at the same height — 20 feet.

Origins:    Several legends maintain that Texas is entitled to exercise certain privileges not granted to other states due to its status as a quasi-independent republic prior to its admission to the United States. We’ve discussed a few of these legends on another page, and here we tackle yet another one: the claim that Texas (and only Texas) is permitted by federal law to fly its state flag at the same height as the U.S. national flag.

We must begin by pointing out the nature of the “laws” that apply to the display of the U.S. national flag. Although the federal government has an established flag code, the provisions of that code are codifications of tradition and etiquette regarding how, when, and where national and state flags should be displayed, and how one should act in order to show proper respect for those flags. U.S. law has no provisions for enforcing the flag code or punishing violators thereof, so the code is essentially a collection of advisory guidelines about how flags should be displayed and respected. (In the words of the federal government: “The Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include any enforcement provisions, rather it functions simply as a guide for voluntary civilian compliance.”) The federal flag code does not authorize the government to dispatch G-men or police to arrest persons who allow their flags to touch the ground, fly them at the wrong heights, display them upside-down or backwards, or fail to destroy old flags “in a dignified way.”

The federal flag code prescribes that when the U.S. national flag is flown along with state flags, the national flag should be given the position of superior prominence. This means that:

  • When the United States national flag is flown on the same halyard as a state flag, the national flag should be at the peak.
  • When the national flag and a state flag are flown on separate staffs, the flag of the United States of America should be flown to the right (to the flag’s own right, or to the observer’s left) of the state flag, and from a staff of equal or greater height.
  • When the national flag and a number of state flags are grouped and displayed from staffs, the flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group.
  • When the national flag is carried in a procession with other flags, the national flag should be carried on either the right-hand side of the line of flags or in front of the center of that line.
  • When the national flag is displayed with another flag against a wall with crossed staffs, the national flag should be on the right (the flag’s own right) and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
  • When the national flag and one or more state flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last.

So, as long as other positional guidelines of the flag code are observed, any single state flag may be flown at the same height as the U.S. national flag (although the state flag may optionally be flown at a lower height as a show of deference to the national flag). Nothing in the federal flag code specifies exceptions for the Texas flag or any other state flag, nor does Texas’ own flag code create or acknowledge any such exceptions. In fact, the Texas state flag code follows the federal flag code in all respects where the flying of the national flag and the Texas state flag together are concerned:

SUBCHAPTER B. DISPLAY OF STATE FLAG

§ 3100.055. Display on Flagpole or Flagstaff With Flag of United States

(a) If it is necessary for the state flag and the flag of the United States to be displayed on the same flagpole or flagstaff, the United States flag should be above the state flag.

(b) If the state flag and the flag of the United States are displayed on flagpoles or flagstaffs at the same location:

(1) the flags should be displayed on flagpoles or flagstaffs of the same height;
(2) the flags should be of approximately equal size;
(3) the flag of the United States should be, from the perspective of an observer, to the left of the state flag;
(4) the flag of the United States should be hoisted before the state flag is hoisted; and
(5) the state flag should be lowered before the flag of the United States is lowered.

While the Lone Star flag may be special to Texans, nothing in federal law makes it more special than any other state’s flag.


Claim:    Purchases of U.S. flags are exempt from sales taxes.

Example:    [Collected via e-mail, April 2015]

Many years ago I saw a TV show that stated that if you purchase an American Flag, you are not supposed to pay sales tax for it. I was wondering if this is true, and would each state be required to follow this “rule”?

Origins:    Of all the taxes we pay for various levels of government and services (city, county, state, and federal), perhaps the one that affects us most in our daily lives is the sales tax. Save for those U.S. residents who live in the handful of states with no state sales tax (Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana, and Alaska), the rest of us are typically paying sales taxes multiple times per day whenever we buy the necessities — and luxuries — of daily life: everything from food, clothing, and gasoline to hotel rooms, airline tickets, and automobiles.

One thing many of us feel we shouldn’t have to pay any taxes to purchase is the American flag. Most of us already contribute a good chunk of our incomes in the form of income tax (and other federal taxes) to support our country’s government, so it just seems unfair that those who want to display their love for the United States by proudly flying Old Glory should have to shell out even more in taxes to do so. This feeling has fostered a widespread belief that not only are U.S. flag purchases exempt from all sales taxes, but that some manufacturers label them as something other than flags (e.g., “decorative banners”), thus requiring the collection of taxes for their purchase:

A couple years back I went to one of the big box stores to buy an American flag. When I cashed out, they charged me tax. I objected, saying there is NO sales tax on US flags. The cashier got the manager, who was just as ignorant, and said it was in the computer so they had to charge it. I ended up writing the state’s attorney general and eventually got my money back, the store was all apologies and IIRC they gave me some extra store credit.

Fast forward to just recently, the wife was at a local garden store and bought a bunch of plants etc. Since our flag was getting ratty looking she bought a new one. When she got home we looked at the receipt and noticed tax was charged. So she called the store and eventually was given to a manager.

Well guess what? This thing is 3 x 5 feet, cloth, red and white stripes, field of blue with white stars, a pole to hang it on etc, etc. BUT!!! The package clearly says “Decorative Banner”, NOT US flag. So in a very technical way, they were “correct” in saying tax applies.

Later on we were discussing it and she remarked what she should have said to the guy was “I guess if it’s not a flag, I can walk on it, burn it, pee on it or whatever, and since it’s ‘not a flag’ that would be OK?”. We probably should have taken it back, asked for our money back and said we wanted an American flag, not a banner.

So for what it’s worth, look your flag purchase over carefully, and if you live in a state which has sales tax remember NOT to pay tax on the American flag. And be sure they don’t pull some sort of “decorative banner” crap.

Much as we think it should be so, there is no blanket exemption of sales taxes on U.S. flag purchases. Sales taxes are primarily enacted at the state (rather than federal) level, so it’s up to each state to set their own policy in that regard.

Some states do exempt American flag purchases from state sales taxes, but only a minority of states (14 in all) have such exemptions in place. Moreover, those exemptions may only apply to a subset of flag sales, such as those made by government organizations or non-profit groups.

Claim:    The folding of a U.S. flag traditionally incorporates thirteen separate folds because each of the folds has a special meaning.


Example:    [Collected on the Internet, 2001]

“WHY THE AMERICAN FLAG IS FOLDED 13 TIMES”

Have you ever wondered why the Flag of the United States of America is folded 13 times when it is lowered or when it is folded and handed to the next of kin at the burial of a veteran?

Here is the meaning of each of those folds and what it means:

The first fold of our Flag is a symbol of life.

The second fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The third fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The fourth fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The fifth fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country, in dealing with other countries may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.”

The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The seventh fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our Republic.

The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

The ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; for it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The tenth fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The twelfth fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

The thirteenth fold: When the Flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our Nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.” After the Flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy today.

The next time you see a Flag ceremony honoring someone that has served our country, either in the Armed Forces or in our civilian services such as the Police Force or Fire Department, keep in mind all the important reasons behind each and every movement. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us by honoring our Flag and our Country.

Origins:    This item about the meanings of the folds in a flag reminds us of a joke told by deadpan comedian Steven Wright: “Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?” As often happens, a “meaning” has been grafted onto some facet of everyday life, to the point that a symbolic after-the-fact meaning has been confused with the original purpose.

Traditional flag etiquette prescribes that before an American flag is stored or presented, its handlers should twice fold it in half lengthwise; then (from the end opposite the blue field) make a triangular fold, continuing to fold it in triangles until the other end is reached. This makes a triangular “pillow” of the flag with only the blue starred field showing on the outside, and it takes thirteen folds to produce: two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular ones.

The American flag isn’t folded in this manner because each of the folds has a special symbolic meaning; the flag is folded this way because it provides a dignified ceremonial touch that distinguishes folding a flag from folding an ordinary object such as a bedsheet, and because it results a visually pleasing, easy-to-handle shape. This thirteen-fold procedure was a common practice long before the creation of a ceremonial assignation of “meaning” to each of the steps.

An elaborate flag folding ceremony incorporating these meanings has since been devised for special occasions such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day. These associations are “real” in the sense that they mean something to the people who participate in the ceremony, but they are not the reason why a flag is folded in the traditional thirteen-step manner. As was the case with the candy cane, an invented (religious) symbolism has become so widespread that it is now often mistakenly assumed to have been an integral part of the origins of the item it is associated with.

It is also a common misbelief that the above-quoted script originated with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and is used by default at all veterans’ funerals conducted under the aegis of the U.S. military. This is not the case, as the USAF has noted:

Though there are no official ceremonies in the Air Force that require a script to be read when a flag is folded, unofficial ceremonies such as retirements often do, said Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Air Force protocol chief.

“We have had a tradition within the Air Force of individuals requesting that a flag be folded, with words, at their retirement ceremony,” he said.

There is no shortage of scripts available that can be read aloud during a flag folding, but many of those scripts are religious in nature and also ascribe meaning to the individual folds put into the flag. One of the oldest of those scripts is attributed to an anonymous chaplain at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Individuals who hear those scripts end up attributing the contents of the script to the U.S. Air Force. But the reality is that neither Congress, nor federal laws related to the flag, assign any special meaning to the individual folds.

Claim:    The gold ball atop a military flagpole contains a razor, a match, and a bullet.


Examples:

[Collected via e-mail, 2003]

I was told that on each military post the truck (ball on top) of the flagpole and the base of the flagpole contain: a service revolver, a round of ammunition, and a book of matches. This is so that the commander instead of surrendering his post to the enemy can instead take down the flag, burn it to prevent desecration, and commit suicide rather than be taken alive.


[Collected via e-mail, 2001]

Have you heard the one about the Post Colors? At the base of the flagpole is supposed to be buried a razorblade, match, and pistol with one round. If the post is overrun a soldier is supposed to lower the flag, use the razor to slice off the stripes, use the match to burn the flag, then commit suicide with the pistol.


[Collected via e-mail, 2002]

A friend of mine a (who was in the air-force) a couple of years ago. He was telling me, that, on top of a flag pole the gold ball is called a “truck”. He also tells me, that there is 6 .38 cal bullets and a Penny in the “Truck”. He also said, that, there is a .38 revolver, buried at the base of the flagpole. The reasons for these things, they claim, is that:

1. The .38 is so america will never be without arms.
2. The bullet is so the pistol will never be out of ammo.
3. The penny is so america will not be broke.

Origins:   The importance of the flag in military culture would be difficult to overstate. Its importance extends far beyond its function as a symbolic representation of the land, people, and principles for which one fights — the flag is a marker of territory, a symbol of resistance, and a proclamation of victory; and its capture, lowering, or absence is an indicator of defeat. The continued presence of the American flag over Fort McHenry the morning after a British attack on Baltimore’s harbor in 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to what is now the USA’s national anthem, and the picture of U.S. Marines planting an American flag atop Mt. Suribachi during the battle for the ferociously-defended island of Iwo Jima in 1945 is perhaps the world’s most famous military photograph.

We’re not surprised, then, to find the flag as the subject of legend which brings together patriotism, horror, and whimsy in a curious belief that celebrates the bravery of American soldiers while reminding all that the duty expected of these warriors is limitless. An oddly persistent bit of military lore asserts a small cache of items deemed necessary for protecting the flag during a last stand at an overrun military facility is secreted in the gold ball atop the flag pole or buried near the pole’s base.

The golden balls that top flagpoles are properly (and obscurely) styled “finials” but have also come to be known on military bases as “trucks.” Their purpose is to ornament solid flagpoles and keep water out of hollow ones, and they can also serve to hold the pulleys through which rope halyards are run to raise and lower the flags. A number of military flagpoles were at one time topped with gold-colored eagles, but these proved impractical because flags would become hopelessly entangled on them during high winds; the switch to spheres eliminated this problem.

Flag-defense items are not secreted in the finial or buried at the foot of the pole. Although the flag has great symbolic importance, defending the bases over which it flies from attacking forces has far more direct and practical importance, and it’s hard to imagine any right-minded soldier’s taking time away from his duty of repelling invaders to engage in ritualistic flag destruction. Nor is it very plausible that a soldier, amidst a force of enemy troops overrunning his base, would have the time to scale a flagpole (or chop it down, or knock it over, or dig up its base) to retrieve hidden items, much less time to put them all to use. Although this is a charmingly romantic bit of lore, it’s also a wildly impractical one.

“Flag-defending supplies” lore seems to dictate that three items be hidden in or near the flagpole, but what those three items are varies from one presentation of the rumor to the next. Generally, one item is provided to destroy or mutilate the flag (a match or a razor); the second item serves to arm the defender, either for the purpose of battling onrushers or assisting him in ending his own life (a bullet or a revolver), and the third item is purely symbolic (a penny to represent America’s wealth, or a grain of rice to indicate that American soldiers are so tough they can survive on almost nothing). However, all manner of combinations are posited in different versions of the legend, including two-item offerings.

The strongest theme running throughout such beliefs is the idea that the enemy must at all costs be prevented from taking possession of a base’s flag. Though no one would want to see his country’s flag fall into enemy hands (such an eventuality is, after all, symbolic of the base’s having been thoroughly overrun), the invaders’ capturing a flag is not the catastrophe lore would portray it, certainly not when compared to the loss of the base itself or the deaths of those stationed there. Prized symbol or not, it is not the flag itself that is important but its presence overhead — as long as it flutters above, it proclaims America’s ownership of that particular piece of territory. Its coming down during battle indicates ownership has changed hands, either through force (the attackers have successfully overrun the facility) or capitulation (the defenders have surrendered). Therefore, a besieged soldier who lowers his country’s flag, even for the noble purpose of destroying it, is signaling his base’s surrender. What would happen to the flag itself afterwards would be almost beside the point, because the banner’s value lay not in its worth as a scrap of cloth but as a symbol of military occupation.

We view flags with special reverence because they have historically served as symbols of the collective identity of those who fight under them, symbols proudly carried into battle at the forefront of attacking forces and waved to rally troops in disarray or retreat. The colors of a Civil War regiment embodied its honor, and the men chosen to bear them made up an elite. The post of flagbearer was deemed an appointment of great honor, and those who trooped regimental and national flags into battle were especially brave, for colors “drew lead like a magnet.” A fallen bearer’s banner would quickly be taken up by a fellow soldier, and many men willingly exposed themselves to enemy fire (often at the cost of their lives) rather than allow their regiments to suffer the dishonor of allowing their flags to touch the ground. Yet it was not the flag itself that was important so much as what it symbolized: that so long as the banner waved, at least one man from that regiment lived on, and thus the regiment itself continued to exist.

Two secondary themes are also often present in the “flag-defending supplies” rumor: the notion that the flag must be destroyed by one of its defenders, and the romantic image that the last man left standing must commit suicide rather than be taken alive. If keeping the flag out of enemy hands is the priority, there are other choices besides destroying it: the flag could be entrusted to someone charged with carrying it to safety, or it could be hidden in a place where the intruders wouldn’t find it. (If these notions sound implausible, picture the improbability of a hurried soldier’s successfully setting a flag on fire with just one match, especially a match that has been exposed to varying weather conditions for months or years.) As for the last defender’s killing himself, American military tradition does not encompass the concept (exemplified by the Japanese bushido warrior code) that capture by the enemy is shameful, and a soldier is honor-bound to die fighting or commit suicide rather than allow himself to be taken prisoner. As long as an American soldier has fought bravely (and there is little or nothing to be gained through his holding out at the cost of his life), his surrender or capture is considered neither shameful nor dishonorable. Hence, the flagpole legend’s mandate that the “last man” take his own life is not a realistic reflection of military duty and serves only the typical storytelling requirements of symmetry and closure: if the flag must be destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, so must the man who carried out this highly symbolic task.

Perhaps the flagpole legend was not intended to be taken literally and was merely created as a prankish bit of misinformation used in the initiation of new recruits (much in the vein of the “snipe hunt,” a ritual in which newcomers to a group are sent in quest of ridiculous, non-existent objects, their naivety in undertaking such tasks providing a source of great glee to the all-knowing veteran members). If so, that the legend is now widely-believed (or at least taken seriously enough to be questioned) might demonstrate that the legend has since taken on the secondary, unintended effect of reinforcing the symbolic importance of both the flag and a soldier’s devotion to duty.

Rob Dalessandro, of the U.S. Army Center for Military History at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., says noncommissioned officers take this legend so seriously that at promotion boards, soldiers are asked how far the pistol is buried from the flagpole: “In some they’re pretty specific: It’s six paces, the pistol from the flagpole and some of them even mention a cardinal direction.” Dalessandro, however, says no Army document formalizes this ritual.

Claim:    Photograph shows a house painted in protest by its owner after he was barred from displaying a U.S. flag in his yard.

Example:   [Collected via Facebook, May 2013]

I have received an email that stated a man was told by his homeowner’s association that he could not fly his flag. It showed what he ‘did about it’, and the house was beautifully painted like an American flag:


This guy was told by his Homeowners Association that he couldn’t fly the American flag in his yard …

Origins:    Recent years have seen a number of “viral” news stories about homeowners (often military personnel or veterans) who have run afoul of local ordinances or homeowners association (HOA) rules that prevented them from displaying U.S. flags on their property, such as the 2009 case of Van T. Barfoot and the 2013 case of Brandon Weir. Usually such problems arise not because of a general prohibition on the flying of U.S. flags, but because some facet of a particular flag’s display violates an existing rule: the flag is too large, the flagpole from which it is flown is too high, or the flag is attached to a portion of a home (such as a balcony or stairway) which is required to be kept free from adornment.

In May 2013 a photograph (displayed above) of a home with its exterior painted in the pattern of an American flag (white stars amidst a blue field adjacent to red and white horizontal striping) was circulated on the Internet, with accompanying text identifying the paint scheme as one the homeowner resorted to after being told by his HOA “that he couldn’t fly the American flag in his yard.” Although the picture is real and the unusual paint job it depicts was something undertaken as a form of protest, the true backstory had nothing to do with a homeowner’s being barred from displaying a U.S. flag in his yard.

The American flag house pictured above is located in Cambridge, Maryland, and its owner, Branden Spear, gave it that distinctive paint job after being angered that his restored Victorian property was declared by building inspectors to be non-compliant with historical code:

Homeowners who choose to paint their houses with non-traditional colors risk running afoul of their neighbors and local politicians, but owner and contractor Branden Spear never set out to paint his restored Victorian properties with colors that were out of the norm. But when local building inspectors told him that the windows he chose to restore the home weren’t up to historical code, he got angry. “It would have cost one-third of the restoration budget just to install those windows,” says Spear. Then he realized the building code said nothing about what colors the old Victorians should be painted. So as a show of his anger, and as a protest against what he says are unfair regulations, he painted one home all black, and the adjacent home with an American flag theme. They’ve become something of a tourist attraction since, and even though Spear is still at odds with local government officials, he has proven one point — that paint and color can also be used as protest.

In June 2014, Florida news outlets reported a case of a resident of Bradenton who had also painted his house in the style of a U.S. flag as a protest over the city’s code compliance enforcement:

A prestigious road in Bradenton is now home to a very patriotic house.

Brent Greer, who lives on Riverview Boulevard, recently painted the outside of his house red, white and blue. Greer said he decided to turn his home into the American flag to send a message.

Greer grew up in the 100-year-old home and now lives there with his wife and seven adopted children. He said they changed the color of their house after getting into a dispute with the city’s code enforcement.

A few months ago, code enforcement officers said they went to the home acting on an anonymous tip.

“Late February, we received a complaint about a dead Christmas tree on the balcony,” said Volker Reiss, Community Services and Code Compliance Manager for City of Bradenton.

Reiss said his officers asked the family to remove it and they complied.

Greer said to his surprise, they were told about more violations.

The city sent Greer a two page letter, listing several violations at the home. Some of the issues were about missing window screens, painting, pressure washing, loose railings, and trash on the property.

Greer said while everything was upsetting, one complaint made him furious. He said he was told his home’s exterior painting was not up to city standards.

The Greers do not live in a deed-restricted community. He said he feels like he’s being treated as if he does.