The removal of an American flag from a Maryland traffic circle prompted a patriotic rally after a report that the road crew that took the flag down tossed it in the back of a dump truck.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Rhonda Winkler's family first posted a flag in the Woodbine, Md. roundabout three years ago in honor of their soldier nephew's deployment to Afghanistan. They've taken care of the flag ever since, replacing it with a new one every few months.
A month ago, a car crashed into the circle, running over the flag and destroying it. The Winkler family, aided by an 88-year-old World War II veteran, replaced the flag again and stuck a new gold-painted pole in the ground. At some point, a pine tree in the circle was also damaged: either in the crash or was heavily trimmed back to make the flag more visible, according to conflicting media reports.
Then, on Dec. 19, Winkler got a call alerting her that state road crews had removed the new flag and flag pole, tossing both in the back of a dump truck.
Her husband, Jeff Winkler, contacted the highway administration and was told people had complained about the flag and damaged tree, and that posting a flag on the roundabout was considered trespassing on state property.
“They told us it was against the law to erect a flag on the traffic circle,” Rhonda Winkler told Fox News. “They told my husband that whoever put up the flag could be arrested for trespassing.”
David Buck, a state highway spokesmn, told the Baltimore Sun removing the flag was also a matter of safety for the people who cross the street to get to the circle to take care of the flag.
"They don't have traffic control out there, and they don't have [road work] vests on," he told the newspaper.
The Winkler family tried to get the flag back from the highway administration but has been unsuccessful.
“We figured it’s the American flag and we live in the United States of America – how can anyone have a problem with it,” Winkler told Fox.
As a result, the family planned a patriotic event in protest: They got a permit, borrowed a crane and hung a massive flag above the circle on Dec. 23. A large sign next to it read, "Welcome Home U.S. TROOPS, United Patriots of Maryland." According to the Baltimore Sun, the event attracted dozens of people, many of whom waved their own flags in solidarity.
Buck said he hopes a solution can be found, but said allowing residents to put flags up in traffic circles would require a statewide policy change.
For her part, Winkler told the Baltimore Sun she's "not a big stink maker."
"I don't sweat the small stuff, and we're at the point [in society] where you can't say this and you can't do that," she said. "But the American flag is one thing we are all going to stand up for."