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Police Report On Valdosta Flag Protest Provides More Details

U.S. Flag
Posted at 2:09 PM, Apr 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-03 11:29:21-04

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) -- A police report provides new details in the American flag protest at Valdosta State University.

The report shows police were dispatched to a call about a group of people walking on the flag at the pedestrian mall between Nevins Hall and Odum Library. It happened Friday around 1:30 p.m.

When officers got there, they saw 10 people standing around a set of flags. A Moroccan flag and a Libyan flag were being displayed on a wooden saw horse stand. The American flag was on the ground. 

Police say they asked what the group was doing, and the students said they were peacefully assembling.  When asked if they were part of a student group, they said "no." 

According to the report, the officers told them they didn't need to be part of a student organization to assemble, but they did have to have a permit form from the VSU Dean of Students Office to protest. 

Police found out they did not have a permit for the assembly. The assistant dean of students got involved, and asked the students what they were protesting about. Police say they didn't give a particular reason for the protest.

Police told them they could continue to protest, but they needed to move off the pedestrian mall with the flags and saw horse stand so people could get through the area. 

They complied, and police continued to keep an eye on the situation. Police say the assembly grew larger, but was peaceful and civil. Officers heard discussions about anti-government beliefs, racial relations in America, and police relations with African-Americans. 

Shortly after 2:35 p.m., police say Michelle Manhart walked up and asked for directions to the vice president of communications office. Then they say Manhart walked towards the students and reached for the U.S. flag, which was near a bench in the area. 

The report goes on to say Manhart then walked quickly towards Carter Drive with the flag. Then police tried to stop Manhart from leaving the area. The students walked toward her. 

Police told her to return the flag, but Manhart ignored the commands.

Police say they gave her more commands to stop, but she refused and said she would dispose of the flag properly. Another person from the gathering then stood in front of Manhart and talked to her demanding the flag be returned. 

At that point, Manhart stopped walking and the students surrounded her as well as all VSU police units in the area. The officers pleaded with Manhart to surrender the flag, but Manhart would not. 

Officers say Manhart continued to resist, and it took three officers to handcuff and restrain her. They say she was put in handcuffs for safety reasons.  

Manhart was taken to VSU police headquarters, and issued a criminal trespass notice. 

Police say the stolen flag was returned to the owner, 22-year-old Eric Sheppard. Sheppard told them he didn't want to press charges against Manhart, but he refused to sign a VSU Police Department Termination of Investigation form, saying he did not believe in the role of police.