Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today? See Proclamations for March 22

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Why are flags half-staff on Monday, March 22? President Joe Biden has issued a national half-staff proclamation for the people killed in the March 16 shootings in the Atlanta area, and a number of states have proclamations in place, too. Here’s a look at the people who are being honored on Monday by lowered flags across the country.


Flags Are Lowered in Memory of People Killed in Atlanta

Biden issued a national half-staff proclamation that lasts until sunset today, Monday, March 22.

The proclamation reads:

As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on March 16, 2021, in the Atlanta Metropolitan area, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, March 22, 2021.  I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

The shootings at spas in the Atlanta region left eight people dead, six of whom were of Asian descent. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms denounced anti-Asian discrimination around the country when sharing details about the crime and the shooter. “Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that many of the victims, the majority of the victims, were Asian,” Bottoms said in a news conference the day after the shooting. “We also know that this is an issue that’s happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”


States Are Also Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Others Who Have Died

In Guam, all U.S. and Guam flags are flying half-staff until sunset on the day of interment for Antonio R. Terlaje, a World War II survivor and former commissioner in the village of Agat. He died on March 13 at the age of 93, according to The Guam Daily Post.

Illinois state facilities are lowering their flags for the victims of COVID-19. Flags are being flown at half-staff in remembrance of “all who have perished from COVID-19 in the Land of Lincoln,” reads Governor JB Pritzker’s statement. The proclamation was first declared on April 16, 2020. On March 16, the one-year anniversary of the state’s first COVID-19 deaths, the governor and MK Pritzker, his wife, announced the start of a month-long memorial installation at their mansion “to commemorate the lives lost to COVID-19,” according to a press release. At the end of the installation, the state’s flags will be returned to full-staff on April 17, the release says.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf ordered that all commonwealth flags on commonwealth facilities, public buildings and public grounds fly at half staff indefinitely in honor of the victims of COVID-19. The flag order was put into place on April 7, 2020, “until a date to be announced after the pandemic passes.”


Flag Half-Staff Traditions

It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the President of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official dies.

If you’re wondering about the terms half-mast versus half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on the ground or a building, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s blog The Sextant. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast, according to The Sextant. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.

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