An Air Force veteran who resigned in 2008 after posing nude for Playboy magazine was briefly detained and banned from Valdosta State University in Georgia last week after she took an American flag from a group of protesters who were using it as a floor mat.
Michelle Manhart said she was not planning to take the flag from the protestors, but wanted to take some sort of action after learning about the group’s recent campus demonstrations, The Valdosta Daily Times reported.
“I did not want anything like this, but I got a call from a student who told me that the flag was on the ground, and they were walking on it,” she told the paper. “I was just going over there to pick up the flag off the ground. I don’t know what their cause is, but I went to pick it up because it doesn’t deserve to be on the ground.”
Ms. Manhart said she was detained by VSU police officers who then returned the flag to the demonstrators. She admitted to The Daily Times that she resisted arrest after seeing the flag being returned.
The group, who declined to identify themselves to reporters, elected not to press charges against Ms. Manhart, but campus police issued her a criminal trespass warning which bans her from any university activity, The Daily Times reported.
“I saw what was happening, and I couldn’t believe nothing was being done about it. In my head I kept seeing all the caskets of our service members. It was like they were walking on their caskets,” Ms. Manhart told the paper. “It hurt me so much. I couldn’t let it go on.”
She said she is planning an event for Wednesday that shows support for the flag and American military service members.
In a statement posted on the college’s website, Valdosta State University President William J. McKinney said the American flag “represents everything that is best about our country” but said the demonstrators had a right to protest.
“As the Supreme Court has held, one of those things is the right to free speech, which includes the right to disrespect even the symbol of our country,” Mr. McKinney said. “While I firmly disagree with the actions of the protesters, I understand their right to protest.”
Ms. Manhart, a former Air Force military instructor, was placed under investigation in 2007 and eventually demoted after posing nude for Playboy. She resigned from the service in 2008, The Daily Times reported.