A photo of an American flag hanging upside down outside a McDonald’s in Islip has caused a clamor on social media even days after restaurant employees corrected the mistake.
Last week, employees of the McDonald’s on Main Street removed the flag from its staff during a storm. When raising it Wednesday, employees unintentionally hung the flag upside down, according to the store manager.
The flag was only upside down for a short time before employees noticed the mistake and corrected it, the manager said.
After a Facebook user posted a photo of the inverted flag, accusations about the store’s intentions quickly spread. Hundreds of people shared the photo, many expressing concern and assuming the store was taking a stance against the Trump administration.
“I don’t care what your political views are, and I’ve tried to keep mine to myself, but no matter what I truly believe, this is wrong on so many levels,” one Facebook user posted along with a photo of the inverted flag.
“A complete disgrace,” another user wrote.
Some called for a boycott of the Islip restaurant, while others shared the location’s phone number and encouraged others to call and complain about the incident.
People continue to share the photo this week, even after Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) posted a clarification of the situation on his own Facebook page Thursday.
“I was horrified by the photo of the upside-down flag. I have since learned that this was not sanctioned by ownership or management or McDonald’s corporation. The store supervisor, who comes from a military family, had it corrected immediately and promised to address it,” Cilmi wrote in the post.
“There is no need to boycott McDonald’s,” he added, “unless of course you’re on a diet or are otherwise adverse to fast food.”
Katie Hunt Rotolo, the store’s owner and operator, said in a statement Tuesday the incident was a “misunderstanding.”
“I have the utmost respect for our flag and anyone who has worn it in defense of our country,” Hunt Rotolo said. “This was an honest mistake — one that was corrected within a matter of minutes. I apologize for this misunderstanding, and our staff will remain extremely vigilant going forward.”
Cilmi said he looked into the matter after receiving several complaints from residents.
“I did my best to respond personally to each of the posts that I saw until finally I just couldn’t keep up with all the different shares and posts,” Cilmi said. “I have a relatively significant reach on social media, so I took the opportunity to put something out there, because a lot of folks were really disgusted by what they view as unpatriotic behavior.”
Gregory Cordaro, 48, of Deer Park, posted the photo of the flag Thursday, after he had seen it in an East Islip community Facebook group. His post has since been shared more than 140 times.
“It was hurtful to see. As a person who became a citizen when I was a child, I always understood the importance of what the flag stands for,” said Cordaro, who was born in Canada and later adopted by a family in New York.
Though an inverted flag is an international signal for distress, flags are also commonly hung upside down to express disapproval of government.
There have been some recent cases of people unhappy with Trump’s administration flying American flags upside down. A veteran in Washington state protested the recent travel ban with an upside-down flag, a local news outlet reported Monday. A former Marine in California has hung an inverted flag outside his home since November, a local newspaper reported.
The practice has sprung up in the past, too. The head of the Mon Valley Republican Committee in Pennsylvania displayed an inverted flag after former President Barack Obama was elected to his second term, according to local reports. Some tea party advocates also hung upside-down flags to signal their dismay with the government, The New York Times reported.