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Modern American Protest and Message Flags - Part II

        Accepting the notion that many of the flags used by the British Colonists prior to the American Revolution and many of the secession flags of the American Civil War can be considered "Protest Flags," or "Message Flags," I ignore them in these sections as they are featured in their own individual sections of this website, and concentrate on the lesser known and more modern flags of either protest or message flags used by Americans today. It also should be noted that some of the flags on this page can't be considered either "protest" or "message" flags, they are rather "aspiration" flags. By this it is meant that it is the manner in which they are used that determines what they are. For example, a peace flag reflects an aspiration and it only becomes a protest flag when used that way, otherwise, it remains just a peace flag.

AIDS Awareness Flag

HIV/AIDS Awareness Program Flag 2001

"The history of HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in the USA began in 1981, when the United States of America became the first country to officially recognize a strange new illness among a small number of gay men. Today, it is generally accepted that the origin of AIDS probably lies in Africa. However, the USA was the first country to bring AIDS into the public consciousness and the American reaction undoubtedly contributed to the establishment of AIDS as one of the most politicized, feared and controversial diseases in the history of modern medicine."

April 10 has been made National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, as part of the Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Month in the United States. Through education, prevention, and treatment many groups are working to eliminate the spread of HIV/AIDS, and eventually eradicate it.

Image by António Martins-Tuválkin
D.C. Taxation Without Representation Flag

Image from Phil Nelson
D.C. Statehood Green Party Flag

District of Columbia Statehood Movement Flag 2002

The District of Columbia Statehood Movement was a political movement that advocated making the District of Columbia a state which dates back to the 1970s. Statehood would give the citizens of Washington, DC, full representation in the United States Congress and full control over their own local affairs, which they don't enjoy at this time. Unfortunately, there is very little political support in Congress for the proposal and since 2003 the proposal seems mostly abandoned.

Another suggestion made for the District of Columbia is that they create a special government district just around the National Mall in downtown Washington to include only the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court (with no permanent residents), which would be under the direct control of Congress. The remainder of Washington could become a separate city, and once again be part of Maryland.

In November of 2000, the DC Department of Motor Vehicles began issuing license plates bearing the slogan "Taxation without representation." President Bill Clinton had these plates placed on the presidential limousines; however, President George W. Bush, in one of his first official acts as president, had the plates removed. The second flag shown here resulted from the merger of the DC Statehood and Green parties in 2006 forming the DC Statehood Green Party.

Image by Pete Loeser
Police Mourning Flag

Image by Pete Loeser
Firemen Support Flag

Police Mourning and Police Support c2002
Fire Fighters Support, Thin Blue and Red Line Flags

This flag began as a police mourning arm band used in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area and was at first typically worn when an officer was killed in the line of duty. It stood for the "thin blue line" of police protection. It evolved into an auto sticker and finally into a flag. It was also used as a show of respect for the police officers killed on September 11 and was also seen as a variant with a red stripe instead of a blue one for fire fighters.

Image by Pete Loeser
Image by Pete Loeser
Fire and Police Support Flag
Police and Fire Support Flag

Versions with much thinner blue or red stripes have also been reported. A tri-color variant with the text "Police Lives Matter" and was used in 2015 at a rally in Baltimore, Ohio.

Image from Adbusters website
Corporate America Flag
(Adbuster version)

Corporate America Flag
(variant version)

Corporate America Protest 2003

These defaced American flags were a part of a protest sponsored by the radical Adbusters Media Foundation against their perceived take-over of the American government and society by multi-national corporations. They described themselves as: "a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society."

The flags were used in a variety of street protests and "teach-ins," which were largely ignored at the time by the national press, but apparently the movement lives on with its rebirth in the 2011 "Occupy" protest. They continue to sponsor their website and publish a free magazine called, naturally, "Adbusters." Apparently, several variants of this flag have been produced, changing some of the 30 corporate logos and their order of appearance. The size of the canton and color seems to vary as well as the flag's size ratios. Two examples are shown here.

An interesting side note about this flag design origins is that it may have had its introduction in Canadian caricature. In Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics, a book about graphic design in politics written by Mirko Ilic, an Yugoslav-born graphic designer from New York, and Milton Glaser, the inventor of the famous "I (heart) NY" sign, and Tony Kushner, there were illustrations showing the flag with logos, and stating that the original design was of Canadian origin. Vexillologist and Illustrator Phil Nelson posted an image of the flag as early as 2001 on the "Flags of the World" website.

Image by Tomislav Todorovic
Black American Flag

Black American Flag 2003

The Black American Flag was proposed in 2003 as a flag which would better represent the whole population of African Americans, or Black Americans, as they are consistently called on the flag designers website. According to them the black color symbolizes all the hardships that Black Americans have endured in the past, as well as the hope for their unity in the efforts for creating a better future. The white star is said to represent the North Star, which "was used as a guide for the long journey towards freedom"; this probably refers to the fact that runaway slaves went north to get hoped for freedom, as well as to the later migrations to the northern parts of the United States after the abolition of slavery, where the discrimination was much less pronounced. As an extrapolation of this, the North Star is also seen as the "guide into the future," for those still seeking a better life.

The Black American Flag is a simple black flag charged with a large white star in the canton. The flag is sold on the Black American website. It is also offered as a car flag.

Image from Philip Kanellopoulos
Earth Flag

Earth Flag 2004

This version of an Earth Flag has been in use by an environmental advocacy and activist group called the Knights of Gaia since 2004. The flag is based on James Cadle's "Flag of Earth," first proposed in 1969.

According to the group, the flag represents the community of all the peoples of the Earth. The flag's background is divided into two fields yellow and black. In the center of the flag is a large blue roundel representing the Earth, the smaller gray roundel representing the Moon, with the yellow field representing the edge of the Sun against the black of space. The gray roundel is 6/22 of the diameter of the blue roundel, corresponding to the ratio of the actual sizes of the Moon and the Earth.

Image by Pete Loeser
Honor & Remember Flag

Honor and Remember Flag 2005

The Honor and Remember organization and flag began in Norfolk, Virginia, as a way to honor and remember George Anthony (Tony) Lutz who was killed by a sniper's bullet while he was on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, on December 29, 2005. What began as a family's grief coping mechanism has resulted in the founding of Honor and Remember, Inc., an organization whose primary goal is to honor the memory, and give a visible public reminder, of men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. More importantly, to serve as a way to remember them each individually by name.

On each flag, below the black text "Honor and Remember" the flags are personalized with the person's name, rank, and service in red lettering and presented to the family. The flags have been adopted in over 26 States by legislative action and the organization sponsors "Runs for the Fallen" that have become annual events in Virginia, Georgia, Colorado, Indiana, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Kentucky and South Carolina. In 2017 they added the Honor and Sacrifice Flag.

51-Star Puerto Rican
Statehood Movement Flag

Image by Gunter Küchler
Proposed 51-Star Flag

Puerto Rican Statehood Movement Flags

This 51-star version of the United States flag is commonly used by the Puerto Rican Statehood Movement (Movimiento Estadista Puertorriqueño). Although, it has been popular among the island's statehood supporters for years, a basic question for most Puerto Ricans remains as to whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S. state, or become an independent country, and on this they disagree.

It should also be pointed out that the Puerto Rican Statehood Movement is not actually a single group or organization, but more of a unofficial confederacy of various organizations and individuals that have staged events and activities and share the common goal of advocating, supporting, or seeking statehood for Puerto Rico. These organizations that promote statehood include the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association, and the Republican Party of Puerto Rico, to name a few. It should also be pointed out that some Puerto Ricans favor the "reunification" of Puerto Rico with Spain.

In anticipation of the addition of a new State, the US Army Institute of Heraldry has also designed a Proposed 51-star national flag for use in the event that a state is admitted as the fifty-first state. The suggested design follows the more traditional horizontal rows of stars design used by the military over the years. Naturally, both these flags have become very popular with both the Puerto Rican Statehood supporters and the District of Columbia Statehood Movement. Naturally, if they are both successful neither 51-Star flag would never become a reality anyway.

Image by Antonio Martins
Nation of Hawai'i Flag

Image by Ivan Sache
Ka Lahui Hawai Flag

Hawaiian Independence Flags

Since Hawaii became part of the United States there have been several local groups or movements whose goals were independence for Hawaii. The Nation of Hawai'i is a pro-independence group of people who claim descent from the original inhabitants of the islands. They use a white-yellow-black horizontal tricolored flag with a "Kahili" symbol in the middle yellow band. The Ka Lahui Hawai, also known as the Polynesian Sovereignty Movement, are another group desiring independence who use a flag with a white constellation of stars placed on a dark blue field.

Image by Peter Orenski
Hawai'i Ko Aloha Flag 2004

A third group, known as Hawai'i Ko Aloha claim to represent all the lineal descendants of Hawaiians from Maka'ainana to Alii. The colors of the background of their Flag represent the Nine islands of the inhabited Hawaiian chain prior to the arrival of the western exploiters. The saying Hawaii ko Aloha means "Love of our land of Hawaii."

Image by Rick Wyatt
Term Limits Flag

Term Limits Protest Flag 2008

Reformers since the early 1990s have been trying to get congressional term limits approved. In the elections of 1994, part of the Republican platform was to pass legislation setting term limits in Congress. They proposed a constitutional amendment to limit members of the Senate to two six-year terms and members of the House to six two-year terms. However, since constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority, it failed.

Since 2007, supporters have been trying to get a national constitutional convention organized, since it appeared that Congress would be unlikely to propose and adopt any amendment that limits its own power.

Image from CRW Flags
Join or Die Flag
(popular modern variant)

Join or Die Flag
(Variant based on original cartoon)

The "Join or Die" Flag 2008

Although this flag isn't historical in the sense that it ever waved during the American Revolution, some contemporary flag companies are today selling a version of the "Join or Die" flag. There is no historical documentation to support this flag's existence, but this flag was used in the opening titles and credits of the somewhat inaccurate seven-part historical HBO melodrama "John Adams," released in the 2008, and based on the Pulitzer prize-winning book of the same name by David McCullough.

The flag design is based on a political cartoon based on an article published in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette protesting the British practice of sending convicts to America. The author suggested that the colonists return the favor by shipping a cargo of rattlesnakes to England, which could then be distributed in the noblemen's gardens.

Three years later, in 1754, the Gazette printed this political cartoon of a divided snake as a commentary on the Albany Congress. They wished to remind the delegates of the danger of disunity, and the serpent was shown cut to pieces. Each segment is marked with the name of a colony, and the motto "JOIN or DIE" written below. Other contemporary newspapers soon took up the "JOIN or DIE" theme.

Although today this flag is not connected to any particular group or protest movement, it is frequently flown by individuals as either patriotic statements or individual protests of American disunity.

Gadsden Flag 1775

design by Jeffrey Allan McQueen
2nd American Revolution 2009

Tea Party 2010

Tea Party Flags 2009

The Tea Party movement is a conservative political movement in the United States that grew throughout 2009 into a series of locally and nationally coordinated protests. The Tea Party protests were a series of protests across the United States that focuses on smaller government, fiscal responsibility, individual freedoms and upholding a conservative view of the Constitution. The protests were partially in response to several Federal laws: the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and a series of healthcare reform bills. The name "Tea Party" refers to the Boston Tea Party of 1773 when American colonists destroyed British tea rather than paying what they considered a tax that violated their right to "No Taxation without Representation." In the 2010 Congressional elections, it became a recognized faction of the Republican political party, and successfully ran several conservative Congressional candidates under its name.

Image by Rick Wyatt
Image by Rick Wyatt
Culpeper Minute Men Flag 1775
Gonzales "Come and Take It" flag 1835

Several Tea Party flags have been reported being seen at Tea Party Rallies; one a modified "Betsy Ross" flags with a Roman Numeral II placed in the center of the 13-Star pattern representing the "Second American Revolution," another, less seen, but reported was a variant slightly renascent of a Confederate States of America flag. Reportedly, in Texas, the Tea Party likes the Gonzales "Come and Take It" flag. The flag most popular, however, hands down, is the modern replica of the Gadsden Flag showing a coiled rattle-snake with 13 rattles on a yellow background with the black lettered motto "Don't Thread On Me," although the Culpeper Minute Men Flag has also been seen. Snakes? Anyone?

Image by Pete Loeser
Three Percenters Flag

Image by Pete Loeser
Oath keepers Flag

Image by Kerodin III
The III Battle Flag

Image by Kerodin III
The III Battle Flag (variant)

Image by Pete Loeser
Gun Control Flag

Nyberg Battle Flag of the Three Percent 2009
Oath Keepers and III Percent Patriots

The Nyberg flag, named after right-wing activist Gail Nyberg, who apparently designed it, is being sold at the "Sipsey Street Irregulars" website. Based on the belief that during the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King's tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists, militia groups calling themselves by such names as the "Three Percenters," (Threepers), the "Sipsey Street Irregulars", and the "Oath Keepers" (led by Nevada lawyer Stewart Rhodes, a former staffer of Congressman Ron Paul), have sprung up expressing the belief that any attempt at gun control is unconstitutional and violating their second amendment rights. These groups claim to be the new three-percenters who "the Founders counted on to save the Republic when everyone else abandoned it."

These extreme "anti-gun control" (or "pro-second amendment") gun owners, claim to be preparing to "defend" themselves and "their right to bare [sic] arms" against perceived "enemies, foreign and domestic," and who warn all those they call "collectivists" (those who favor gun control "control"), to leave them and their guns alone. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have labeled these groups as anti-government, extremists, and racists.

The Oath Keepers, founded on March 2009 by Stewart Rhodes (a Yale Law graduate and former US Army paratrooper) were incorporated in Las Vegas as a non-profit corporation. They advocate their members disobey any orders that they are given if they believe they violate the Constitution of the United States. Supposably made up of present and former servicemen, police, and firefighters, the Oath Keepers include chapters in many states across America. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has reportedly been seen sporting an Oath Keepers patch.

III Percent Patriots Resist Flag
III Percent Patriots Chaplain Corps

An apparent very militia-like splinter group calling themselves the III Percent Patriots, led by someone using the alias of Kerodin III, has broken away from the main body of the Three Percenters and established websites where he claims to be attempting create an "official III Organization." He say this about their flag: "This is my Battle Flag. Tremble, Enemies of Liberty. For if I fall and take it to the bloody mud - one of my brothers will pick it up and kill you for me." He says his Battle flag´s stripes are from the Sons of Liberty flag, and the III represents "...every American...who has picked up a rifle, or would pick up a rifle, for Rightful Liberty." Thus far these groups have not been involved in violent activities, other than spending a great deal of time and money arming and outfitting themselves.

A related gun control protest flag is a modern twist to the Texan Gonzales Banner of 1835 which replaces the Texas cannon with a modern M-16 military semi-automatic rifle. Although this flag isn't affiliated with any particular gun control group, it seemed to fit here.

Image by Eugene Ipavec
"Oh, My God, Snake!" Flag

"Keep Fear Alive" Protest Flag 2010

A "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Oct 30, 2010. Billed as an "anti-extremism" gathering, it was hosted by Jon Stewart (of Comedy Central´s "The Daily Show") and Stephen Colbert (of Comedy Central´s "The Colbert Report"). A huge crowd attended, and apparently it received mixed reviews, not enough content and too much clowning around for some people, others loved it.

The participants brought many humorous or ironic signs, many spoofing the flags present at Tea Party rallies like this modified Gadsden flag with the motto "Don't tread on me" replaced with "OMG SNAKE! HELP! SNAKE!". The red slogan "KEEP FEAR ALIVE" was also inserted into the snake's coils.

"In the Fall" Flag

The "In the Fall, Fire Them All" Movement Flag 2010

United States voter dissatisfaction with the apparent inability of the politicians in Washington D.C. to work together birthed a "In the Fall, Fire Them All" ground swell that resulted in many people voting against all incumbents regardless of their political views in the 2010 Congressional Elections. This seriously harmed the Democratic majority and cost them control of Congress.

Unfortunately, the politicians ignored the message and the Republicans took it to mean they had received a mandate from the people, and so the movement may either gain momentum or die; only time will tell.

Legalize Marijuana Flag
(Type #1)

Legalize Marijuana Flag
(Type #2)

Legalize Marijuana Flag 2017
("Come and Get It" variant)

Legalize Marijuana Flags 2010

The recent attempt to legalize marijuana in California brought a whole new set of flags to wave. Interestingly enough the growers themselves helped defeat the proposition on the election ballot. Ah, capitalism...

Legalize Marijuana Flag
(Type #3)
Legalize Marijuana Flag
(Type #4)
Legalize Marijuana Flag
(Type #5)

A whole rash of flags appeared on the market, supporting the legalization of marijuana and the use of "medical" marijuana. These are a few examples. Type #1 - places marijuana leaves on the stripes and canton; Type #2 - tries to mix conservation, recycling and marijuana use; Type #3 - plays a word game using the popular iPod as a ploy; Type #4 - features a marijuana leaf and the word "blunt," slang for a tobacco leaf that is often used to roll marijuana cigars. They come in flavors such as cherry and peach and are used to camouflage the potent smell of pot. Type #5 - centers a leaf and the word "Marijuana" on a horizontal red-yellow-green tricolor.

One of the newest Legalize Marijuana Flags is the Marijuana "Come and Get It"flag, a modern twist to the Texan Gonzales Banner of 1835 which replaces the Texas cannon with a lit Marijuana joint and adds a black Marijuana leaf above it. After seeing this historic Texas Revolution flag with AR-15 automatic rifles and such, this re-purposing of its design should not surprise us anymore.


The COEXIST Movement Flag 2010

The COEXIST Movement has sprung up, especially on college campuses, across the country. The goal of this movement is to embrace tolerance for all belief systems. The chief promoter of this movement is the music industry and the pop icon Bono from the band U2. Hollywood and the fashion industry also promotes this movement with an array of clothing products, gear and bumper stickers, including a flag. Not surprisingly, this is not a popular movement with most fundamentalist groups or churches.

On the flag every letter in "COEXIST" has a symbol representing a religious system or spiritual ideology: "C" for the crescent and star (representing Islam); "O" being dotted with the Karma Wheel (Buddhism); "E" as energy in the relativity equation (Science); "X" illustrating the star of David (Judaism); the "I" doted with the peace symbol; "S" for the Tao symbol; and "T" for the cross for Christianity. The black stripes hold a whole range of different belief symbols.

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