there's been a controversy recently in a nearby college town in which a group of protesters were desecrating a U.S. flag by walking over it. during the protest, michelle manhart, a veteran, was offended by the display and took the flag from the protesters. she was arrested and later released for those actions.
video and article are here.
the situation sparked controversy with some siding with the protestors and some siding with manhart. large nationalist counter-protests were organized and executed, with thousands turning out to support the flag.
i'm not exactly sure what the protesters were protesting, but if i had to guess, it would be based on some somewhat true, but mostly ignorant ideas about what the united states is and what it stands for. manhart's idea is that the flag stands for freedom and it deserves respect. basically, it comes down to people taking sides in an argument where, as usual, both sides are wrong.
the u.s. flag is a symbol of the united states government. sadly, most people are conditioned to think of the flag as a symbol of "america", "freedom" and anyone classified as an "american". that's false. what most people think of as "our country" is really little more than a large, open-air prison, bound by imaginary lines, called borders, inside of which all people are subjected to the rule of a group of people calling themselves a "government". these people use violence, or the threat thereof, to control and plunder the hapless population residing inside the borders.
in order to make their activities easier, the government uses propaganda to convince the population that they (the government) are necessary and good and that the population is, in fact, a part of the government and that "we're all in this together". of course, as anyone should be able to see, that's not true. governments want people to view a flag as a symbol of "the people", so that people will rally around it, thus allying themselves with the government that victimizes them. that way, the government can continue to victimize the population without much worry that they will ever cease to submit.
the effectiveness of the propaganda is especially clear when people not only associate the flag with themselves, but with freedom. as i pointed out above, the flag is a symbol of a government. governments, by their very nature, are explicitly anti-freedom. at their core they use violence and the threat of violence to force people to bend to their will. that's not only not freedom, but the destruction of freedom. propaganda has to be good if people use the symbol of a freedom-destroying organization as a symbol of freedom.
according to the woman in the story above, michelle manhart, "...to walk on the flag is walking on our symbol of freedom." it's ironic, then, that she, in order to save a so-called symbol of freedom, actually destroyed freedom when she took the flag away from its owners. she stole the property of the protesters, thereby limiting their freedom.
to sum it up, the flag is not a symbol of freedom. it is not a symbol of "the people". it's a symbol of an anti-freedom organization that exists by victimizing a certain population through force.
if protesters want to buy a flag and then walk over it, it's their right to do with their property as they see fit. if nationalists want to support the people that exploit them by flying government flags, then it's their right to do with their property as they see fit.
there is no other issue here.