After January 6, measures to protect the U.S. Capitol building have arguably emblemized a sense of uneasy vulnerability felt at the country’s seat of power since rioters broke in after the 2020 election.
Earlier this year, fencing was erected outside the building ahead of Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, a move which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) criticized, claiming that the president was “afraid of Americans visiting their Capitol.”
In what some interpreted as a further sign of nervousness, photos were published on social media this week showing the U.S. flag flown upside down outside the Capitol, a display associated with “dire distress.”
A tweet by DC_Draino, posted on May 16, 2023, and viewed 2.7 million times, showed what appeared to be a photo of the U.S. flag outside the Capitol upside down.
DC_Draino tweeted: “NEW: US flag currently flying upside down over Senate building signaling distress and needing rescue
“Some believe it was flipped after Sen. Fetterman spoke with the sophistication of a drunk toddler in a hearing today.”
Under U.S. Flag Code, the flag should never be displayed with the Union down “except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
The display has been used as a means of protest, such as earlier this year when the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched through the National Mall in Washington, D.C., wearing masks and holding upside-down American flags.
This detail was not missed by DC_Draino and others on social media who believed the display at the Capitol was perhaps symbolic of Washington’s nerves.
However, Newsweek found that while the photo is real, it is not a cause for alarm.
An official at the Capitol confirmed to Newsweek that the flag was at one point upside down. The official blamed a broken clip and added that the issue was later rectified.
Photos posted by news account @rawsalerts, which also shared the image of the flag the wrong way up, showed it had been changed to the correct position.
It tweeted: “The us American flag is no longer upside down as a staff member from the us capital has fixed the flag.”
In 2019, the flag was flown upside down outside of a U.S. Immigration and Customs detention center in Aurora, Colorado, during a demonstration attended by hundreds of protesters.
Protesters also reportedly spray-painted “Abolish ICE” on a “Blue Lives Matter” flag before hoisting that up as well.