Air Force veteran handcuffed while trying to protect U.S. flag from campus protest

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VALDOSTA, Ga. (CNN/WALB) - A Valdosta veteran is speaking out after being handcuffed during a protest on Friday for trying to keep people from walking on the American flag.

It was caught on video - Michelle Manhart's daughter recorded it on a cell phone during a protest at Valdosta State University.  Police tried to take the American flag out of Manhart's hands.

"Mainly, they kept saying give me the flag and we won't give it back [to the protestors]," Manhart said.  "I knew that wasn't true and that's why I wouldn't let go."

The incident occurred after Manhart heard about the protest where demonstrators were walking on the flag.  Manhart, a U.S. Air Force veteran, says she made several complaints to the university.

Michelle Manhart, a U.S. Air Force veteran, talks about being handcuffed Sunday while trying to grab an American flag from protesters. (Image: CNN/WALB)
Michelle Manhart, a U.S. Air Force veteran, talks about being handcuffed Sunday while trying to grab an American flag from protesters at Valdosta State University. (Image: CNN/WALB)

"They had thrown it on the ground, they were walking on it, kicking it, you know, making different motions against the flag itself," said Manhart.

But the protests didn't stop, so Manhart decided to take matters into her own hands.

"I saw the flag, I walked up, I picked it up and I walked away," she said.

And that's when things escalated between Manhart, the demonstrators, and campus police.  Manhart says she got upset when police gave the flag back to the demonstrators.

"I got a little unprofessional and called him a not very nice name because I was extremely upset that he told me one thing and he did something completely different," she said.

Manhart was taken into custody, but wasn't charged.  The university banned her from all campus activities. School president William McKinney said he disagrees with the actions of the protestors, but said their actions are protected by law.

Manhart says she doesn't have any regrets.  "If I had to do it again I would," she said.

The Air Force veteran says she will continue to honor and protect those who serve our country.

"Our men and women who don't get to come home are wrapped in that.  It's draped over their caskets during their funerals.  Same with our police officers, our firefighters.  Our American flag is our American symbol," she said.

The video of Manhart trying to protect the flag has been viewed more than 3 million times.

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