An upside-down flag torn off of Victor couple's home.
VICTOR — Devastated, stunned and incredibly fearful.
Those are the words Victor resident Laura Glasner used to describe the moment she realized that Donald Trump would soon be president.
She said her concern is based on the president-elect’s characterization of racial and ethnic groups, his approach to free speech, his disregard for global warming and a proposal that includes the implementation of a registry for Muslims entering the U.S.
“The purpose of government is to provide and create conditions so that everyone has as much opportunity to thrive and prosper as possible,” Glasner said.
Her husband of 36 years, Bill Glasner, references Fascism when talking about the soon-to-be-president. He references Italian novelist Umberto Eco who, slightly more than 20 years ago, wrote a guide describing the features of the authoritarian system of government that developed in the author's country when he was a child.
“Basically our attitude is we’ve elected the first fascist president since the Germans did in 1932,” Bill Glasner said, referencing Adolf Hitler.
“Of course Donald Trump is not Adoph Hitler,” Bill Glasner stated in an essay to the Daily Messenger earlier this month. "But then Hitler was not Hitler in 1932 … and the Holocaust was years away. But the writing is on the wall now as the surge of hate crimes since the election reveals. Donald Trump has clearly indicated that he does not much care for the Bill of Rights or civil rights laws. Neither do many of his supporters.”
A few weeks after the election, Bill Glasner decided to express his concern by gathering up an American flag he owned — one he typically hung in recognition of notable occasions such as on the Fourth of July — and hanging it outside. Only this time he attached the flag to the side of his residence upside-down.
Glasner’s rationale for the flag’s presentation lays within the U.S. Code of Laws regarding how to fly a flag. An upside-down flag is a sign of dire distress in instances of danger to life or property.
The flag’s presence in this state on the front of the Victor home didn’t last long.
The Glasners were on their way to church when they noticed that the flag was missing. Glasner points out that he had tacked the flag firmly to the residence, so in order for it to be removed, force must have been used.
The couple didn’t make it to church that day, as Bill Glasner proceeded to contact 911. Shortly after an Ontario County sheriff’s deputy came to his home and took a report.
To the Glasners, the focus of the report seemed to hone in on the fact that $15 worth of property had been stolen — they believe the situation wasn't treated with the level of importance that they thought it should.
This was an act of intimidation due to their political opinion, according to Bill Glasner.
“We can only assume that this act of vandalism, which we reported to the sheriff, and which we consider a hate crime, was committed by someone who got the message and who does not believe in the First Amendment,” he stated in his essay.
Several days after the initial report to police, Glasner decided he’d follow up with the deputy, who had left him a business card. He described the call as unsatisfying.
“He asked to imagine if you’re a veteran and you see the flag flying upside-down,” Bill Glasner said. “So he brought politics into the discussion.”
When Bill Glasner referenced the flag as representing the Constitution and thus the First Amendment, “he basically cut me short and didn’t want to talk about it,” he said. “And he shouldn’t be talking about it but he shouldn’t have brought up politics in the first place by bringing up the idea of a veteran being provoked by seeing a flag fly upside-down."
“We told him why we felt distressed,” he continued. “We had no sense that there was any kind of understanding. I don’t know if I wanted him to do anything, I just wanted understanding that we experienced this as a hate crime and as an act of intimidation, not as a simple act of stealing a $15 object. That’s what I was trying to get across, but there’s no place in the (judicial) system for registering that kind of complaint.”
Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero acknowledged that the crime at the Victor had been investigated by his office. He stressed that the crime reported could only be pursued as a larceny and not a hate crime as currently defined in state law.
A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism coupled with an added element of bias. The FBI defines a hate crime as an offense acted out against a person or property that is motivated by the perpetrator's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.
The Glasners, residents of Victor since 1988, said that they had been warned by members of their family and friends about flying the flag upside-down in the first place.
“People are coming out of the woodwork, and just like the person who ripped down our flag, people are feeling emboldened to let their prejudices out,” said Glasner, who is retired from his business as a self-employed maker of handmade glass artwork.
After the flag went missing, they promptly put up another American flag in its place — this one also upside-down. The difference between this flag and the last is, this time around, Glasner made a wooden frame for Old Glory and he bolted it to his home.
The new flag has not been tampered with to date.
“This one they’d have to come up with a pry bar and a ladder to get the thing down,” Bill Glasner said.
Despite their commitment to what the upside-down flag symbolizes, they soon plan on taking it down and replacing it with a sign to more blatantly display their distress.
“The meaning of the flag is kind of lost on a lot of people,” Bill Glasner said.
This planned sign, which has been ordered and is currently being crafted within the walls of a Victor-based business, will say: “We stand against Fascism.”