Melissa Schlag is the Connecticut official who has been taking the knee during town meetings in her small Haddam town. What started out as a small, local protest has gathered media attention from around the world. You can watch her protest here.
Schlag — a slectman who sits on the Haddam town board — said that after Trump’s meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, she was “sickened.” She decided that she had to take action, however small. So she started taking the knee during the pledge of allegiance at meetings of the Haddam town board. Her protest has gotten a lot of attention, both in the media and in social media. Schlag says she’s received death threats and has been told she deserves to be raped.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Schlag, a Democrat, First Took the Knee on July 16. She Says She’ll Keep It Up Until Trump Leaves the White House
Schlag first took the knee during a town meeting on July 16. As the town board said the pledge of allegiance, she went to the side and knelt in protest. She has said that she was always inspired by Colin Kaepernick, the NFL star who began taking the knee during the national anthem at NFL games.
Schlag wanted to replicate Kaepernick’s protest, on a smaller scale. Instead of kneeling during the national anthem, she decided she would kneel during the pledge of allegiance. But she did not expect to attract national attention for her small protest.
She said that the first time she took the knee, she didn’t think it attracted much attention. But at the very next meeting of the town board, the usually empty hall was filled with spectators, all there to see whether she was going to take the knee again. As she kneeled. she was met wtih angry boos, and a few cheers.
Schlag says she will keep up her protest for as long as Trump remains president.
2. Schlag Says She Kneels Because of Her ‘Extreme Sorrow’ About Trump’s Meeting With Putin — And Over the Separation of Families At the US Border
Schlag says she first decided to kneel after Trump sat down to meet with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. She wrote, “I knelt out of extreme sorrow for our country, because earlier that day, the president of the United States sat down with a murderous dictator, Vladimir Putin, our enemy and someone who is working hard to undermine the most patriotic of our rights, the right to democracy.”
But Schlag says the meeting with Putin isn’t the only thing that motivated her. She also says she is protesting the separation of families at the US-Mexico border. She writes, “I knelt out of extreme sorrw that children are being kept in cages, separated from their families.”
3. Schlag Is Getting a Lot of Hate In Her Largely Republican Town
After Schlag’s first protest, Haddam residents organized a counter-protest. Residents held a pro-flag rally at the Veterans’ Memorial in Haddam, laying 1000 flags at the memorial.
“If you want to protest the president. Please don’t do it on my tax dime,” said Lori Maggi, a member of Haddam’s Economic Develoment Commission, said to Fox.
And at a recent town hall meeting, a Haddam resident looked at Schlag and said, “I wholeheartedly respect your right to protest, to take a knee, to lay down, to burn the flag, to do whatever it is . . . but if that’s what you would like to do, do that on your own time.”
4. Schlag Says Her Father Is an Air Force Veteran and She Was Raised as a Patriot
Schlag wrote in a Facebook post that her father was an Air Force veteran; she says that as a girl, she attended Veterans Day parades and Memorial Day parades.
Later, Schlag joined the Girl Scouts and marched in the parades as a scout. A member of her high school band, she played patriotic songs on the clarinet and wrote essays about patriotism.
Schlag wrote that she got involved in politics because she wanted to serve her country. She says, “I consider myself a Haddam patriot as well as an American patriot.”
5. Schlag Says She Has Been Receiving Death Threats — And She Blames Trump Supporters
Schlag says she has been receiving threats ever since she started her protest. She wrote about some of the threats on Facebook. “I hope you get raped and killed. I’ve heard that and worse over the past two weeks. But you know…#maga” she wrote.
Schlag didn’t say where the threats were coming from. Her Facebook page is full of angry comments from people upset by her protest. One Facebook user, Zach’ry James, wrote, “Garbage!! You should probably step down from your position just like you do before our glorious flag!!” Another user, Joey Zovich, wrote, “I see you learned from Hanoi Jane”
But Schlag blames the threats, indirectly, on president Trump and his supporters. She told MSNBC, “And in case you want to argue this has nothing to do with the president, the most recent note I got ended with MAGA.”