How People are interpreting the Installation of U.S. Flags Along U.S. 285 Varies Widely
While some are saying that they are inspired by the American flags that have appeared on U.S. 285 across nearly half of the length of Chaffee County, not everyone agrees. Many say they are proud of the display, yet other people, both residents, and visitors to the county have expressed concern and downright uneasiness over what they see as the misappropriation of our national flag.
Now, say several people, they are beginning to see an implied purpose to the flags, which are displayed in a way that is a clear violation of the U.S. flag code for the display and honoring of the flag. Flags along the highway have been spotted as ripped, torn, caught on barbed wire fences, and on the ground. They are flying in storms, and all night long without the specified lighting.
Veterans Express Concerns
A U.S. military veteran visiting the county said he is very concerned about seeing the flags displayed on the highway, in a way that he says desecrates the flag and U.S. flag rules. “The U.S. flag should never be flown at night unless it’s lit,” he said. “In addition, it should not be flown faded or worn and it should not be allowed to hit the ground. Any of these actions are considered a desecration of the flag. I am really upset to see this.”
A local who hosts Airbnb guests in her home says several travelers have asked about the flags this summer. “Our most recent guest asked who was organizing the effort and said he was concerned that the flags were being flown incorrectly, without lights for nighttime display. I said that I thought it was a local patriot group promoting it, but I wasn’t sure who he could contact regarding flag etiquette.”
“I got an issue with this, they aren’t following the flag rules, they’re leaving them out at night, they aren’t lit, they’re leaving them up in storms, it’s, well — they’re disrespecting the flag I fought for,” said another veteran.
Posting on a National Scenic Byway
A Salida resident who hadn’t driven north on U.S. 285 for a few weeks expressed concern over their proliferation. He added that the fact that the flags continue to appear in ever-increasing numbers along the Collegiate Peaks National Scenic Byway, which per the Highway Beautification Act is supposed to be message-free, is just another reason for uneasiness.
“We have legislation about putting billboards on scenic highways,” said a county resident who asked to remain anonymous, concerned over backlash. ” It’s on a scenic byway that has been specially carved out for its scenic beauty, and it’s there like some sort of clue. As a neutral person who doesn’t take political sides, it’s discomforting and distracting. You start counting poles and not watching the road or the scenery. Besides there being a safety thing, it casts a shadow on this county.”
Personal Statement versus Hidden Meanings
The flags began appearing along the road in one small portion of the county, put there, says Kaylee Davis, as a patriotic gesture by her mother, Shelby Davis. The funds for the first flags came from her own pocket and were put up by her, her family, and friends. She says she is not associated with any group, party, or any other affiliation, “just an American who cares deeply about her country.”
“My mother was inspired to put flags up along Highway 285, to show her love for our country, love for those who have sacrificed their own lives to give us the freedom we so enjoy, to honor her own son who served in the military,” said her daughter. “As of now, donations sent to secondary parties have not been received by her to cover the cost of the flags and materials to install them.”
It’s what happened next that has folks wondering exactly what is going on and what message is actually being sent.
Soon after Davis’s personal statement, flags began multiplying all the way from the unincorporated county land on which the Oak Leaf solar farm sits just outside Poncha Springs, to past Nathrop. Those flags, says Davis, were not put there by her mother.
Facebook posts in “WhatsHappeninginBV” discussed the flags (many comments since removed), and it was clearly a divisive issue.
Nor is her mother or their family in any way involved in a GoFundME page that was put up nearly a month ago by Danny Nachtrieb (who also happens to be one of the gatekeepers of the Chaffee Patriot group),” said Davis. They ask for money to extend the flag display. Davis said her family hasn’t seen a dime of that money.
It has been reported the Chaffee County Patriots have been extending the flag display. Their reasons may not necessarily be for the reasons Davis first put up her own flags, although Chaffee Patriots President Dennis Heap has been quoted as saying that “people who love America have been in awe, wept, joyous and filled with hope” when they see the miles of flags. The group has announced plans to put up flags all the way to Leadville and Fairplay.
“We considered flying an American flag at our gate at last November’s election and at the recent July 4 but decided not to,” said one reader who contacted AVV. “We felt that people would interpret our flag as support for Republican candidates and Donald Trump. Trump Republicans have hijacked the American flag for their own partisan purposes and they’re trying to change its meaning.”
“When we flew our American flag after 9/11, as so many Americans did, everyone’s message was about national unity and mutual support,” she added. “But recently when driving between Nathrop and Poncha Springs past all the ranches with a flag in every fencepost, it finally became clear why that makes us uncomfortable. Their message is, ‘We’re the real Americans – and you are not!’ The message is exclusionary and divisive, not inclusive and welcoming.”
Just this past week during the Chaffee County Fair, at least 16 American flags have been put up on the border of the Chaffee County Fairgrounds property, not a single one of them properly illuminated at night. Ark Valley Voice confirmed they were authorized by the board of the Chaffee County Fair and Rodeo Board.
“I hadn’t driven south on U.S. 285 for some time, so I just saw the flags a week ago,” wrote another AVV reader. “The flags seem to be on the same properties that posted Trump signs last fall.”
AVV cannot verify that that is the case. But it has reminded our readers that the American flag is our national symbol, it is considered a living being, and there are strict display rules for the display of the American flag which are being broken by these displays. Republicans or Chaffee Patriots don’t have a corner on loving our flag or our country.
The display of flags along state and county highways in this county is not occurring in a void; it coincides with other activities that have occurred in this county; the sudden evolution of the Chaffee Patriots (with at least one tie to the Three Percenter Militia group), as well as a right-wing extremist element that surfaced last year prior to the 2020 elections, and the Jan 6 violent insurgent attack on our United States Capitol. This was followed by major claims by county commissioner candidate Hannah Hannah of (non-existent) county voter fraud, continued by a disgruntled voter and some prominent county Republicans, and an effort by Dist. 60 Representative Ron Hanks to attempt to force a Colorado election audit.
A few readers have contacted Ark Valley Voice expressing their concern that our national flag is being turned into a symbol of intimidation. “It looks like a family’s personal conviction might be being co-opted by a group that is not just political, it is potentially threatening,” said one. “It’s in your face. It feels like our flag is being turned into a rejection of other people’s legitimacy — anti-immigrant, bigoted — like there’s a corner on belonging and patriotism.”
Most recently, a filing has been submitted to make the Chaffee Patriots a 501(c)(3) tax designation; for what social good, is not readily apparent. (But the Oath Keepers Militia group has already been cited for “abusing the U.S. tax system” by posing as a charitable nonprofit.)
Supporters of former President Trump, including QAnon members, have promoted the idea that he would be reinstated by this August, and announced that a process is underway to pick his new cabinet.
Stolen Symbols Behind Historic Violence
The world has had more than one example of symbols being usurped by authoritarian groups and messianic leaders.
It begs the question; is an attempt underway to repurpose our American flag, which has stood as a symbol of a country united around liberty and justice?
Featured image: A downed American flag along U.S. 285, caught in barbed wire. Photo by Stephen Hall.
You’re an excellent writer, but you are using your talents to divide people, rather than bring them together with a Love of Country! What is the purpose of scaring people by using fictitious people -people that have no names?
Technical yes a flag left up overnight should be lighted, but to my way of thinking what has happened with the highway flags is respectful, patriotic and is done in a manner that honors the flag and America.
What does it take to put up a mile of flags?
50 1” x 10’ PVC
100 hose clams
Electric drill / 5/16” drive
People that donate dollars
People that donate the work 23.5 mann hours
o Assemble flag sets 8 mann hours
o Lay out t-post 1 ½ man hours
o Install t-post & mount flag sets 15 mann hours
Three tasks are required to put up a section of flags. Roughly it takes 50 flags spaced 105’ apart to cover a mile. The cost for a mile of flags is roughly $2,000.
For illustrative purposes let’s say there is 17 miles of flags or 850 flags. If we put a $10 solar light on each flag that is $8,500, which does not count the volunteer labor to install the lights.
I am surprised at Stephen Hall as he took time to photograph a flag in distress, but to my knowledge he did nothing to part of the solution. I understand that Mr. Hall was in the military and was a law enforcement officer, so I am not only surprised, but sad that he took no positive action!
What are the names of the people who are critical? Do they fly the American flag on their house? Do they take it down each night or do they leave it up because they have a light on it? Do they say the Pledge of Allegiance when they “Post the Colors”? Maybe those people would like to be part of the solution as part of a maintenance team, adopt a section of flags, donate to the cause, and help install soler lights!
I am more concerned with people burning the flag, calling America a racist country, and opting for Socialism.
I doubt that you will post my remarks as they do not fit the narrative, so I will say from my standpoint that your truth is half-truth and twisted truth, and censorship is one of your primary tools, but I still like you!
There is obviously divisiveness between those who cannot accept the results of the 2020 election and continue to claim voter fraud, and those who know that we had a free and fair election, so doing an article pointing out the obvious disrespect of the American flag by this unlawful display, and a questionable practice along a national scenic byway, is not going to make that more so. You see patriotism in this, many others do not. They see inuendos of bias, bigotry, and hatred, which have already been freely expressed by those claiming to be “Chaffee Patriots” — as AVV has covered in prior articles: https://arkvalleyvoice.com/what-exactly-is-the-purpose-of-chaffee-patriots/
AVV knows the identities of those who expressed concerns to us, and as a common journalistic practice, when they fear for their safety we protect their identities. Since the Chaffee Patriots have already shown their willingness to intimidate and to dox those who speak out against them, we have even more reason to do so. Those expressing concern say they see a political message in this, which is not something that should be applied to our national symbol. This is not a racist country, but there are racists here. There are also white nationalists, and white supremacists, who would prefer that the country reflected their image, not the multi-cultural country that we are — and have always been if you choose to see it.
Questioning other’s patriotism because they don’t agree with you is wrong, so we won’t do that and we surely hope that you won’t continue to do so either. You speak your own view of this Dennis, which you are welcome to have. But we aren’t applying censorship — we are applying truth
Good article. Please do more to flesh out this Chaffee Patriot group. True democracy does not have to be demonstrated by one special interest group usurping our national identity.
I was glad to see the article about the flags. As we drive between BV and Salida the flags have proliferated. I agree with those who think it’s not appropriate; it feels as though it’s some sort of Patriot (ha) message. Along the route there’s a flag with blue instead of red stripes (probably to represent the police) which is definitely illegal. It’s too bad our flag is being desecrated for political reasons.
Anyone who displays the flag in a disrespectful manner is just another performative fake patriot.
Thank you for this article as it captured exactly what I feel. I know many, many of my neighbors and it was clear how they voted with enormous 8′ x 6′ Trump banners all over their property and on easements close to county roads. Those same neighbors now fly the U.S. flag and one erected a 35ft flagpole to make sure his “patriotism” is seen. He had eight Trump signs on his property until two mos ago, and continues to have the Trump sign attached to his mailbox post. He had a sign dissing Facebook for its “censorship” (which of course I agree with). He emphatically believes the election was fraudulent. So, for me — it is acutely clear that the message is meant to be intimidating, divisive, and that yes — the “patriots” have hijacked the flag. The ones on Hwy 285 absolutely disrupt the beauty of the scenic byway, they stress me out, and the greatest majority of the flags were put there for one purpose and one purpose only: THEY are patriots (not law-abiding, not backing the blue, not supporting our democracy) and THEY are in control. It is to bully, it is to be divisive, and it is in your face, which is how that political side seems to feel is the best way to express itself, illegal parades and all. Honking on the corners, waving the flag. I know someone who contributed to the “lighting” of the flags and never even received an acknowledgment. And the flags are not lit. What to think?
You point out a sign on your neighbor’s mail box — attaching any political sign to a U.S. postal box is illegal. Having political signs up more than two weeks after any election is also against the law.
This is in the county, not in municipal boundaries, and the post office for whatever reason has not seemed to be bothered by it: a flag on the mailbox post AND a Trump bumper sticker on the mailbox itself. At one point, I asked the VFW if they would knock on the door to at least discuss the flag being tattered, worn, out in the rain, not lit up, etc. They said it was not part of their effort to do any kind of enforcement. So, as is often said, in outlier county areas — anything goes.
Also, responding to D. Heap’s remarks: all of the costs and manpower necessary to put up all the flags — well, that was a choice that group of people made in order to display their chops. Many people display their love of country by following the laws of this country, not using violence and a mob to make a point, and by caring for the community that we all share by donating to worthy nonprofits doing critically needed work. The scenic byway shouldn’t belong only to people displaying their “love of country.” There certainly was a cost for the flags and supplies and manpower put into it. Meanwhile, there are all kinds of county residents needing a helping hand in so many ways and all of that effort for the flags serves a segment of this population, but not the majority and certainly doesn’t help with food for children, housing for families, etc.