The Gadsden flag, featuring a coiled rattlesnake against a yellow background, has its origins in the American Revolution. It symbolized colonial unity in the face of British oppression. It was flown above the U.S.S. Alfred during the war.
Recently, a video circulated showing a student at The Vanguard School near Colorado Springs wearing a backpack with the Gadsden flag patch. The school responded by asking the student to remove the patch, along with several other patches representing semi-automatic weapons. The school stated that the Gadsden flag patch was only part of the issue.
The Gadsden flag has a complicated history. In the past, it has been embraced by Confederate supporters fighting for secession and the preservation of slavery. In more recent times, it has been used by various groups, including Libertarians in the ’70s and right-wing conservatives since the rise of the Tea Party. It has appeared on license plates, bumper stickers, and even U.S. Soccer jerseys.
However, the flag has also been associated with acts of violence. In 2014, a swastika and a Gadsden flag were draped over the bodies of two police officers in Las Vegas by assailants with anti-government views. The flag was also present during the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol in 2021.
The flag’s controversial history has led to debates and disputes. In 2014, a Black employee of the U.S. Postal Service filed a complaint about racial discrimination related to a coworker wearing a Gadsden flag hat. While USPS rejected the complaint, stating that the flag had no racial connotations, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took a different stance. The EEOC acknowledged the flag’s non-racial origins but noted that it could be interpreted as conveying racially-tinged messages in certain contexts.
These disputes have occurred in various locations, highlighting the ongoing impact and controversy surrounding the Gadsden flag.