The Rev. Michael Pfleger said he intends to keep flying an upside down American flag outside of his South Side church to protest gun violence no matter how many times it gets ripped down, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The decision by the controversial priest to fly an upended flag in front of his church had some veterans up in arms, ABC 7 reports. Members of the Illinois chapter of Rolling Thunder, an organization dedicated to aiding veterans and prisoner of war issues, objected to Pfleger's attention-getting protest.
"There's more attention being given to the flag than to children dying," Pfleger told the Tribune. "What do we care about children dying?"
Flying the flag upside-down is widely recognized as signaling distress or grave danger-- precisely the point Pfleger is hoping to make.
Pfleger, who is the son of a veteran and whose own son is in the Army, said his intention was not to disrespect the veterans or the flag but to call for help in a "dire emergency":
"My God, isn't it a dire emergency that we're losing children -- almost two classrooms in Chicago alone -- to gun violence? This is a dire emergency. This is a pandemic."
Pfleger said his church has hosted three funerals this year for children killed by gun violence. A 16-year-old boy was shot to death Wednesday on the West Side.
"We're doing something radical, yes. But a radical situation is going on right now in our country."
Some members of Rolling Thunder have called on Cardinal Francis George to force Pfleger to take the flag down, which Pfleger said he hopes doesn't happen.
"I hope the Cardinal will not do that. We're not breaking any law, we're not doing anything immoral."
Mayor Daley defended Pfleger Thursday, saying he sympathized with families who'd lost children to gun violence and that flying the flag upside down could get more people talking about the issue, according to Chicago Public Radio:
"I think people are very, very frustrated. He [Pfleger] sees that on a personal level. Young people families, lost of a love one, in of course the offender goes to prison for the rest of their lives. So you're loosing two young people in generations of families and opportunities."