Illinois township supervisor has no regrets flying inverted U.S. flag outside public offices for Trump

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The Republican leader of the Will County Board, who also serves as Homer Township supervisor, is defending himself after ordering the U.S. flag outside the township offices to be flown upside down Friday as a symbol of national “distress” following former President Donald Trump’s conviction last week on 34 felony counts.

Steve Balich, long a controversial right-wing figure in Will County politics, is also a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in July and has been hosting regular weekend rallies for the former Republican president.

In a statement posted on the township’s website, Balich sought to explain his decision to fly the inverted flag outside the taxpayer-funded offices. He said it was “bigger than Republican vs. Democrat” as he also repeated a series of Trump-related campaign talking points critical of Democrats about immigration, inflation and the judicial system.

“Flying the flag upside down represents distress, and I truly believe that our country is in distress and our Constitution is under attack,” Balich wrote of the Manhattan jury’s verdict Thursday finding Trump guilty of falsifying business records to hide hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

“Choosing to fly our symbol of liberty upside down for that limited time was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. I love this country, and I love that flag,” he said, adding he held “in utmost esteem those who have served and died for our country and the flag.”

“By making this statement, I wanted us as Homer Township residents to see the threat before us, reach out to our neighbors, and initiate peaceful discussions about what is occurring in our country,” he said.

Balich’s comments posted Saturday on the township’s website were far less strident than statements he made to the Daily Southtown on Thursday hours after the jury’s verdict. He told the Southtown the U.S. was once “the greatest country in the world and now it stinks.” Of the prosecution, he said, “New York is just an example of the scumbags running our country.”

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, Balich said he didn’t view his actions as using the flag as a political prop to express his personal views on taxpayer property.

“I would consider it as something that’s a fact,” Balich said. “I wasn’t considering it my personal views. I was considering just what it is, a statement of distress, because what’s going on in the entire country is crazy.”

He said his actions were designed to provoke discussion, saying, “I was hoping I would get a lot of people to open up, rise up, talk about it, really think about what’s happening, because it’s all these things that are going on that are not what I grew up with. … We’ve got to get back to what I would consider what’s normal. We’ve got to get back to a time when everything was different, when everything was working.”

Balich said he decided to reverse his decision and order the flag flown right-side-up after speaking to personal legal counsel, saying he was “thinking I’m going to be sued.” But he said he would prefer leaving the flag flying inverted.

“It’s been done, and I don’t regret it, and I believe we are in distress,” he said. “I think everyone has got their anger or their happiness or whatever you want to say out of their system, and the flag is like it should be, and now everybody’s going on, and it’s kind of like the incident is over with.”

The upside-down American flag has gained attention recently after reports it was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito after the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in which Trump supporters sought to halt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. A flag like that was carried by many rioters who chanted Trump’s false claims of election fraud in his loss to President Joe Biden.

The AP reported Friday that imagery of upside-down American flags appeared throughout social media after the Trump verdict, including from accounts held by Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr., his eldest son. The inverted flag was also embraced by right-wing pundits and Fox News contributors as well as Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a loyal Trump ally.

On Saturday, downstate Illinois U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Hindsboro, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of Greene and Trump, posted on her “X” account the image of another flag that gained prominence from the “Stop the Steal” capitol rioters, known as the “Appeal to Heaven” flag. Such a flag was flown outside Alito’s vacation home last summer, according to The New York Times.

The U.S. Flag Code, embraced by veterans organizations, is largely ceremonial and not enforceable under free speech rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Democratic state Rep. Harry Benton of Plainfield said Balich should resign from his post for the “flagrant violation” of the code. Benton also said he would pursue legislation in Springfield making it a felony to violate the code on government property.

“If you want to disrespect our flag on your own property, that’s your freedom of expression. I may disagree with your opinion, but you have the freedom to express yourself on your own property. But government property is the people’s property. And on government property, you have to follow the rules,” Benton said in a statement.

Benton said his family has a long history of military service, including a grandfather who was a prisoner of war in a German camp and another grandfather who was chief aviation mechanic on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in World War II.

“Our flag is the symbol of our country that multiple generations of my family have fought for, and because of this, we are greatly disappointed in people who disrespect our nation’s flag,” he said.

With a background rooted in Tea Party politics, Balich has led the township to declare itself a “sanctuary for life” in opposition to abortion and had the township board recognize an 8-year-old student for “bravery and courage” for entering a school unmasked during COVID-19. In 2010, he authored a symbolic resolution to make English the “official” language of the township.