Those who follow news of flags and look for flags in the news have noticed two things about the anti-Trump protests: The American flag is not very popular among protesters. The Mexican flag, however, is getting more and more common in the U.S.
For a week now, anti-Trump protests have taken place in large cities and on university campuses all over the United States. Marches and gatherings have spread from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Austin, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. to at least 20 other major cities.
Protests have varied from peaceful, but noisy groups with signs and chants and speeches – some evenings counting thousands of participants, for example in L.A. and New York – to out-of-control riotous behavior, with fires burning in the streets, vandalism, looting and violence. Many demonstrators have been arrested by police.
Slogans like “Not my president” and “Love Trumps Hate” are the most widespread and popular. More strongly-worded, even anti-white racist slogans are also reported. The stop-the-hate message of most protesters risk being undermined by the radical and the violent.
The American flag is being used by anti-Trump protesters, but in remarkably small numbers. This may be connected to a more general trend among left-wing activists not to use or identify with national flags. It may also have something to do with the Black Lives Matter movement. This year BLM activists have argued that the U.S. flag is not an inclusive symbol for all Americans.
Some U.S. flags were carried upside down to indicate a state of emergency or distress, and there have been a number of flag burnings. On November 9 it happened at the American University in Washington, D.C. Student President Devontae Torriente explained:
“For some members of our community, emotions were expressed through burning an American flag. While to many, burning the flag is seen as a disrespectful action that people should not engage in, those who do choose to partake in it unequivocally reserve that right. We need not forget that the action symbolizes a discontentment with the current state of our American society on behalf of several individuals of marginalized backgrounds.”
Someone later commented on Facebook: “Once the American flag is burned, NO ONE hears what you say anymore.” Flag burnings usually step-up the conflict as the response will often be just as emotional and irrational as the act itself.
The role of the Mexican flag in protests during the last week is also worth noticing. The Mexican flag is being used more and more in the United States.
This fact is in itself not surprising: Mexicans, or people of Mexican origin, make up more than 10% of the U.S. population. But it is a little surprising in a context of American politics and may be of little tactical value following an election where immigration from Mexico was a very important topic. “Not my president” chanted by a protester carrying a Mexican flag may justifiably tempt many an American voter to think: Of course not! The President of Mexico is Enrique Peña Nieto!
This is part 1 in a series on American flag culture, November 2016. Read also:
The Rainbow Flag
The Thin Blue Line
The NFL Quarterback Who Took A Stand By Not Standing