AUBURN GRESHAM — This week, people from across the country slammed the Rev. Michael Pfleger on social media after a Chi-Raq flag was spotted above a U.S. flag at his St. Sabina Church on the South Side.
On Thursday, some veterans on motorcycles even showed up outside the church at 1210 W. 78th Place to protest the flag's placement, and complaint calls have been pouring in to the church.
While critics accused Pfleger of being "a disgrace," Pfleger was baffled at the response — and said the placement of the flags was simply a maintenance mistake.
"Couple days ago I asked the maintenance guy to put the American flag up and put it at half-staff because we're mourning the violence and the loss of life here in Chicago," Pfleger told DNAinfo Chicago.
Pfleger said he didn't realize the Chi-Raq flag from the Spike Lee Movie, which had been hanging since November, was still up.
When he started getting calls about it, the Chi-Raq flag was removed. A maintenance worker took it down Thursday and put up the American flag while protesters watched. When the worker accidentally raised the U.S. flag upside down, people began taking photos and sharing them online saying that the flag was upside down. It was corrected immediately.
Though Pfleger said the whole thing was a misunderstanding, he said the outrage about the flag flap bothered him.
"I guess what really concerns me most is, we got literally between last night and today, hundreds of calls about this and emails about the position of the American flag," Pfleger said.
"We're more obsessed, angry and outraged about the position of a flag than Chicago being the poster board for violence and 51 people killed, and a total of nearly 300 shot during the month of January," he said.
"Where were the people calling out outraged about that? Where were the people calling saying 'we have to do something, you have to change this, we got to stop this.' No. What about the violence? I'm glad it all happened because it proved to me once again what really is important to people," said Pfleger.
Pfleger was inundated with Facebook messages about the flag Thursday.
Pfleger mentioned the American tradition of flying the flag half-staff to "mourn the tragedy of death," but federal law states that only the president has full flag-lowering powers, and governors can also proclaim that the flag be lowered "upon the death of principal figures of the United States government and the governor of a state, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory."
These rules are a part of the country's Flag Code, but enforcement has been ruled unconstitutional.
Though Pfleger removed the Chi-Raq flag, the U.S. flag continued to be half-staff Thursday afternoon, and the outspoken anti-violence activist said he has no intention of changing it.
"Now many people are calling upset about that," Pfleger said. "I couldn't care less if they're upset about that. This is a national tragedy. There is an emergency going on in this city. It's really disheartening to me that we're at a place in this country where we have more allegiance to a flag than life. It's just sad, but I can get a huge response. ... What's more valuable to us? Flag or life?"
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