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Outrage Over U.S. Flag Flown Upside Down, At Half Staff At South Maui Post Office

Jan 27, 2021
The controversial photo was taken on President Joe Biden's Inauguration Day and some observers believe it's too much of a coincidence and was an act of deliberate protest through a federal agency.
Friday, January 22nd 2021, 6:07 PM HST by Annalisa Burgos
Updated: 
Saturday, January 23rd 2021, 3:12 PM HST

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U.S. flag made by Johnin

A photo of the U.S. flag and POW-MIA flag flying upside down and at half-mast at the Kihei post office went viral on social media. The post sparked hundreds of comments.

"How did a person not get trained on how to raise the flags? I mean the raising, the flags is sacred, you know?" said Maui resident Barrie Warner. "You don't just go out there and whip it up. I mean, there's ways you handle it, when you take it down, how you fold it. I mean, it's serious."

It takes a presidential declaration to fly the American flag at half-staff -- often when someone significant has passed away. Flying a flag upside down is a symbol of distress and is not something you'd see at a federal agency.

The controversial photo was taken on Wednesday... the same day of President Joe Biden's Inauguration Day and some observers believe it's too much of a coincidence.

Some residents went to the post office to talk to the postmaster, while the State Democratic Party and state Representative Tina Wildberger wrote letters asking for a full investigation.

The USPS Honolulu District gave this statement to KITV-4 saying: "We apologize for the upside down display of the U.S. and POW-MIA flags outside our Kihei Post Office on Jan. 20. The incorrect flag displays were an unfortunate and inadvertent error by one of our employees."

Wildberger doesn't buy it.

"That's a coverup. That's covering for someone's purposeful misdeed, in my opinion, without more information," Rep. Wildberger said. "It's just really reprehensible, disgraceful, and disrespectful, particularly in the context of the challenges that the post office and our postal carriers were put through over the holiday period and with the mail-in ballot issues and removing technology out of our post offices to handle mail and therefore delay everyone's mail and packages over the holiday season -- an undue burden on our very hardworking postal carriers."

When asked f any disciplinary action was taken on the employee in question, a USPS spokesman told KITV-4 those conversations and actions are considered internal, personnel matters and did not offer more details.

"I feel like someone was expressing their personal political beliefs, but used federal agency to do that. And that is highly inappropriate," Wildberger said. "I am not leading the pitchfork and torch mob over to the post office. That's just more bad behavior that we don't need anymore of. What we need is responsible and reasonable actions, particularly by federally salaried employees." 

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino told KITV-4 that representatives from his office met with leaders from the post office to discuss the incident, but declined to comment, saying it is a community issue.

Barrie Warner's husband works at the Kihei post office and according to him, she says the employee who did this does not regularly raise the flag, has a language barrier and may not have understood all the symbolism surrounding displaying the flag.

"He really feels that the person was just not well-trained, was sent out to do something they didn't know how to do. And it was a horrible timing," Warner said.

Along with many residents, she wants accountability and an apology.

"The postmaster needs to step up and tell us what happened and why, if it really was innocent, why was the person who wasn't trained sent out to put the flags up, especially on such an important day in our nation? I mean, the beginning of national healing, you know, it's like not cool," Warner said.

"You don't hang a flag upside down, unless something bad is going on, that's the bottom line. So I'm surprised it took a couple hours to notice it," said Ron Lockwood, Commander of the Department of Hawaii Veterans of Foreign Wars. He invites the Kihei post office and others to reach out to his group for training on the proper protocols of flying the U.S. flag and other symbols of our nation.

"It's an easy thing to mess up, but it's also easy to fix so if you take the 30 seconds to look up, you'd see if he got it right," Lockwood said.

The American Legion has information about the U.S. Flag Code. Here are general guidelines for displaying the flag:

  • When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half staff.

  • The flag should fly at half-staff after the death of someone significant to the nation, or the U.S. President can order the flag be flown at half-staff after a tragic event to signify a nation in mourning.

  • A flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open.

  • It may be displayed 24 hours a day if illuminated.

  • The flag should never be displayed with the blue section down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

  • The flag shouldn't be displayed outdoors during bad weather.

  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.

  • If you're raising other national flags too, the U.S. flag should be raised first and lowered last.