Upside-down American flag reappears as a right-wing protest symbol after Trump's guilty verdict

Right-wing commentators and supporters of former President Donald Trump have flooded social media with images of upside-down American flags in protest of his historic guilty verdict

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CHICAGO (AP) — After Donald Trump's historic guilty verdict, a steady flow of images showing upside-down American flags has appeared on social media as his supporters and right-wing commentators protest his felony conviction.

At least one such flag was spotted Friday outside Trump Tower in New York City as the Republican former president spoke about the trial. Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump, the former president's daughter-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr., his eldest son, have been sharing images of inverted flags online, as did Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a longtime ally.

The upside-down American flag gained wide attention recently after revelations that it was flown outside the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to halt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. A flag like that was carried by the rioters while they echoed Trump's false claims of election fraud.

Right-wing pundits and podcast hosts with hundreds of thousands of followers, as well as regular Americans, rallied around the inverted flag in the hours after Trump was convicted of 34 felony counts in his New York hush money trial on Thursday. Among them were Fox News Channel contributors Guy Benson and Katie Pavlich, conservative talk show hosts Graham Allen and Owen Shroyer, and far-right conspiracy theorist and "Stop the Steal" rally organizer Ali Alexander.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, also posted an image on its X account of an upside-down American flag flying next to a flag with its logo. Heritage is the group behind the GOP's Project 2025 playbook, a blueprint for ways to reshape the federal government in the event of a Republican presidential win in 2024.

Other incendiary rhetoric on social media referred to the verdict as a declaration of “war” or a sign of a coming “civil war.” The words “RIP America” trended on X, formerly called Twitter, immediately after the verdict.

Other widely shared rhetoric referred to the end or collapse of America, often alluding to the fall of Rome. Elon Musk, the owner of X, referenced the civil war that preceded the collapse of the Roman empire in a post on the social media platform. Former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy also invoked the fall of the Roman Empire in a video statement he released on X.

The upside-down flag, once a signal of distress for sailors, has come to represent the "Stop the Steal" movement, which falsely claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump for Democrat Joe Biden. Courts around the country and Trump's own attorney general found no evidence of fraud that could have affected the outcome, and the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity arm pronounced the election "the most secure in American history."

The U.S. flag code, which is not legally enforceable, says flags should not be inverted except as a signal of “dire distress,” but the symbol has been used as a form of protest for decades.

Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators used the inverted flag to protest the government’s actions. A 1974 Supreme Court decision upheld the right to display a flag upside down after a university student was accused of violating state law by hanging a flag upside down with peace symbols affixed to it in protest of the killing of four anti-Vietnam War protesters.

After the symbol was spotted outside Alito's home, the justice said his wife had put up the flag as part of a dispute with neighbors.

Some users also posted images of the "Appeal to Heaven" flag in response to the verdict. That flag, a symbol of American resistance during the Revolutionary War, has been adopted by the far-right and Christian nationalist movements. It has been flown at Trump rallies and was seen during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The "Appeal to Heaven" flag also was flown outside Alito's beach vacation home in New Jersey, The New York Times reported.

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Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.

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