Significance of an Upside-Down American Flag

by Hallie Engel

The American flag is a treasured symbol of the USA, and there are rules for handling, displaying and disposing of flags. The United States Code says the flag should only be flown upside down to signal "dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property." However, many Americans fly it upside as a form of political protest.

Causes for an Upside-Down Flag

Though it's acceptable to fly the flag upside down in an emergency, such as in the event of a serious injury, what constitutes a worthy incident is a topic of debate. For instance, a sinking boat flying the flag upside down to signal for help would be acceptable, but it would be inappropriate were the boat simply having minor engine trouble. In 2013, veterans in Connecticut flew the flag upside down to protest a government shutdown, and in Illinois, the tactic has been used by people believing gun violence created an emergency in their state.

About the Author

Hallie Engel is a food and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in several international publications. She served as a restaurant critic for "Time Out Abu Dhabi" and "Time Out Amsterdam" and has also written about food culture in the United Arab Emirates for "M Magazine." She holds a bachelor's degree in communications and film studies from University of Amsterdam.

Photo Credits

  • Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images News/Getty Images