BURLINGTON, Vt. – A Vermont couple demonstrated their resolve to support the president by gathering a group of like-minded individuals and members of the media to witness them hoist a new "Trump 2020" flag in front of their house, six weeks after their initial flag was vandalized.
"We have made America great again," Gus Klein said Saturday afternoon to the crowd of about 75 people who turned out to watch the ceremony in Burlington's New North End neighborhood. "Let's keep America great forever. Trump for 2020."
He and his wife, Annmarie, sported his and hers "Make America Great Again" baseball caps, while many in the crowd wore winter beanies to protect their ears from the 12-degree weather. The replacement flag, the couple said, was mailed to them along with a "heartfelt letter" by the Trump family. The story of vandals burning the Klein's flag and leaving it on their porch reached President Donald Trump's son Eric, who tweeted his intention to send a replacement.
Gus Klein told the crowd that his motivation for raising the flag again was an exercise in free speech and standing up to intimidation. Burlington police have identified two teenagers, whose parents helped in the investigation, as the suspects.
Update: Gus - Your replacement flag is in the mail. If the person is classless enough to do it again just let us know - we will send you as many replacement flags as you need! 🤛🇺🇸 https://t.co/2XiEwiKJRm— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) November 29, 2018
"So one will ask, why the flag raising ceremony? Why make make it such a big deal? It was only a flag. I've heard, it was only a flag, get over it. Well, here's why," Gus said. "Because I can."
Trump flag raises near one border as shutdown continues over another
The Klein's ceremony took place on day 22 of the federal government shutdown, making it the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The shutdown was triggered on Dec. 22 by a dispute between Trump and congressional Democrats over the president's demand for $5.7 billion to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Klein's home is less than an hour from the Canadian border. The shutdown went unmentioned during Gus Klein's speech, but he shared his view of the standoff before the flag raising.
"I feel for the individuals," he said of the nearly 800,000 federal workers who have been sent home or are working without pay.
He said he has been impacted by government shutdowns in the past, but had a steadfast message.
"Just stand by us," he said. "Stand by the president of the United States. It'll be over sooner."
Klein said "I'm not against anybody coming to the United States." However, he said that people entering the country should be vetted.
A petition in support of building a wall at the Mexican border circulated through the crowd at the ceremony.
Supporting Trump in Vermont
Klein said the community has responded to him positively since the story of his burned flag became public.
"It's brought the community together," he said.
But he and Annmarie find themselves in the minority as Trump supporters in the Green Mountain State: Vermont's disapproval rating of Trump was 64 percent in December, according to a Morning Consult poll.
A few people who drove by during the ceremony indicated their displeasure with the event. Someone painted "Trump Sucks" and "Racists Go To Hell" on their car windows.
The Kleins have been noticed for their political opinions in the past. In a November interview with the Free Press, they remembered a time when Gus Klein wore his Trump hat at City Hall during a dispute over the Vermont National Air Guard becoming a base for F-35 fighter jets. They said a few people threw pamphlets and called Gus names like "racist" and "war monger."
"We have the right to raise our flag and support the candidate of our choice," Gus Klein told the Free Press the day of the ceremony. "And we should be able to do that without intimidation or fear or shame about doing that. That's what I hope to put out for a message today."
Follow Maleeha Syed on Twitter: @MaleehaSyed89.
This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: 'Trump 2020' flag rises again in Vermont after previous one was vandalized