HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- A request to remove an American flag has caused an Internet uproar and a Facebook sharing frenzy.
A soldier and his wife who live at Stepping Stone Condominiums in Huntsville said they received a note from the complex Monday evening to remove the flag. The note said the flag violates the home owners association bylaws, and urged the couple to remove the flag as soon as possible to keep the community tidy.
The sharing of the notice by Staff Sergeant Brandon Weir on several veteran advocacy Facebook pages created a viral internet uproar. The story garnered hundreds of likes, shares and comments within minutes on WHNT News 19's Facebook page. When a local group of concerned patriots caught drift of the debate they decided to congregate in front of the home and form a flag line in peaceful protest.
WHNT News 19 spoke with the Stepping Stone Association President and property manager Carol Coffey who said she has been flooded with emails and phone calls about the situation, all in support of the soldier. She said some of the emails were threatening in nature but ensured this was not an attack on the American Flag.
"I served in Afghanistan, I served in Iraq and I served in Kuwait. I am not anti-veteran and I am not a communist," Coffey said staunchly.
The flustered Coffey says the member of their management team who delivered the flag removal request was unaware at the time of The Right to Display The American Flag Act of 2005.
"Federal law says that anybody can fly an American flag on their personal property and we agree with that," Coffee says. "The only thing our manager did was send a letter on our behalf going by the bylaw saying that stuff on the outside is not allowed and that's true."
The Stepping Stone Condominium Association bylaws state units can have no outside decoration or adornment on the units. But do residency rules trump federal law?
The Right To Display The American Flag Act of 2005 states a condominium, cooperative or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy or enter into any agreement that would restrict or prevent a member from displaying the flag of the United States. The act does however, contain limitations to protect condominium associations in some instances. Coffey says the association bylaws are in place to maintain property value and a certain continuity among the units they call an asset to all 126 tenants.
"In order to maintain the integrity of that asset we have certain rules because people could put anything out here if we let them."
The property manager said she realizes there are laws that protect the right to fly the American flag, but said those are for private property. She said this was not private property, because the condos are owned by a community of people.
The property manager says Sergeant Weir's in-laws are the owners of the condo.
The couple who displayed the flag has not commented on camera yet.
"I think they are persecuting us without knowing all the facts," Coffey said. "And here's one thing that really bothers me, she continued, "this person got the letter from our management team and instead of coming to the board and expressing his concern he went and posted something on two or three veteran's sites without all the information and without us knowing anything about it and now we're being threatened--that's not right."
Members of the community who showed up at the property in protest left several American flags staked around the home of Brandon and Lauren Weir.
"We are considering--because I don't think it looks that bad," concluded Coffee, " making a waiver to allow a certain amount [of flags] within a certain number of units. We haven't done that yet--we're just considering it."
When WHNT News 19 left the condos late Tuesday afternoon the Weir flag--and its new companion flags--were still flying.