Alabama county refuses to lower flag for Orlando massacre, faces online backlash

© Michelle McLoughlin
One county in Alabama drew the ire of the internet after choosing not to lower the American flag to half-staff in response to the deaths of 49 people in Orlando, Florida last Sunday – and not for the first time, either.

Following the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 and wounded 53, President Barack Obama ordered the flag to be lowered to half-staff on all federal buildings and properties, including the military. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley likewise sent the order to lower the flags on all federal and state buildings.

READ MORE: FBI calls Orlando massacre both hate crime & terrorism

Right across the state line from Florida, however, Alabama’s Baldwin County decided to leave the flag up – just as they had in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, or the terrorist attacks in Paris or San Bernardino, California last year.

“Lowering the flags to half-staff after mass shooting or terrorist event is not a valid circumstance or memorial as specified in the US flag code,” Commissioner Tucker Dorsey wrote on Facebook, explaining his decision. “I realize that the President and Governor may make the order, but I believe and interpret their order inconsistent with the adopted flag code.”

Dorsey’s remarks were picked up by WPMI-TV, a local news station in nearby Mobile and a CNN affiliate. After CNN reported the story on Friday, social media lit up with criticism of Dorsey, Baldwin County, and Alabama in general.

What CNN and the irate Twitterverse denizens seemed to miss was Dorsey’s full statement, in which he explained why the county refuses to lower the flag.

“When the flag is at half-staff, our country’s head is figuratively held low, and quite frankly, I am not willing to hang my head down because of a terrorist attack against our people and our allies,” Dorsey wrote. “I am not willing to hang my head down because evil shoots up a church, school, or movie theater. We need more than a gesture as a response. I want us, as Americans, to stand tall, courageously, and fight back against the forces of evil, and let’s fight like we intend to win.”

Obama has ordered the flag to be lowered at half-staff 66 times during his two terms, more than any of his predecessors.