Demonstrators waving American flags protested outside a fire station in Seminole, Fla. after the city ordered American flags removed from all fire trucks.
City officials said the flags were removed after they received complaints that the flags were being “inappropriately displayed.”
The flag was being displayed from the back of a ladder truck. After it was removed, city officials received a second complaint about smaller flags that were being displayed from truck windows.
Fire Chief George Bessler confirmed to Fox News that he directed firefighters to remove the American flags – but it had nothing to do with being anti-American.
“When it came to our attention that this flag was mounted in such a manner we requested the flag be removed,” he said, noting that the employee had mounted the flag with good intentions.
Chief Bessler said American flags can only be mounted on a chassis or the right front fender.
“This flag clearly was not being flown in that manner,” he said. “The issue was never that we did not want to display American flags on our vehicles. It was simply that we respectfully did it according to the way the U.S. Code was written.”
The decision to remove the flags sparked debate across the city.
Resident Deborah Fender told MyFoxTampaBay.com that she felt red, white and “betrayed.”
“To be able to fly the flag and support our country, it should be a right,” she said.
“You just can’t tell somebody you can’t fly the flag,” David Dabney told The Ledger newspaper.
Dabney is a member of the Tampa Bay Troop Support Group. He organized Sunday’s protest hoping it would cause city leaders to rethink their decision.
And it worked.
Chief Bessler told Fox News that he directed the city’s maintenance department to fabricate flag stands that would accommodate a properly mounted American flag. He said the flags should be flying on fire trucks by the end of the week.
In the meantime, the chief said he was surprised and concerned by the outrage over the decision to remove the flags.
“What concerns me is where we are in our history without people understanding what the US Code reads,” he said. “I’m absolutely thrilled that people are upset about the fact that we had to remove flags. I’m bothered by the fact that they don’t understand why we had to do that.”
Bessler said he’s a student of the flag and its history. He’s also Boy Scout and Girl Scout leader who teaches proper flag etiquette.
“We appreciate the display of an American flag,” he said. “We have flags that fly 24-hours a day in front of all of our fire stations that are backlit so they meet US Code. We have flags on our uniforms.”