Historical symbol replaces tattered, upside down flag

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

"Don't tread on me"

SURPRISE, Ariz. – A tattered and upside down American flag that once flew outside a home in Surprise has been taken down, replaced by another symbol.

We first told you about this last week. Neighbors complained that flying the American flag in that way was disrespectful to veterans. The homeowner replaced the flag shortly after our story aired.

A Gadsden flag, a bright yellow flag featuring a coiled snake and the words "Don't tread on me," now flies in the front yard in place of the tattered American flag.

With roots in the American Revolution, the Gadsden flag is one of America’s oldest flags. It’s generally considered a symbol of disagreement with the government – the British government, originally -- or a symbol of support for civil liberties.

“Don’t tread on me” is believed to have been the defiant motto of Christopher Gadsden, the American solider and statesman for whom the flag is named.

In 2009, the Gadsden flag started showing up at Tea Party rallies, eventually becoming a symbol of the movement. The implied association has prompted some to call the flag a “political symbol.” Others say it’s not political, but rather a symbol of our country’s history and our War of Independence.

The homeowner’s personal reasons for hoisting the Gadsden flag are not known. In addition, he declined to explain why he was flying a tattered American flag upside down, but he did tell 3TV that he is a veteran and didn't think his flag was disrespectful.

According to Title 4 of the U.S. Code, "[t]he flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property." The code goes on to specify that "[t]he flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way ...."