A Mission Viejo, Calif. mother is being vilified after a viral video showed her son yanking an American flag from a neighbor’s lawn and tossing it to the ground while she watched.
The incident has divided social media, with some criticizing the mother’s parenting and others saying the clip was taken out of context.
“All I will say about the matter is they are an amazing family and are a light to our neighborhood,” family friend Kara Harris told The Epoch Times. “Her son is autistic and has obsessive behaviors. That day she had picked up many flags that he had taken down on all of their laps around the neighborhood and all she wanted to do was get home. And of course the one they didn’t, happened to be captured on video.”
The now viral video, originally posted on a community Facebook page, shows the boy grabbing a flag from a neighbor’s lawn while riding past on his scooter. When it fails to come out of the ground, the boy dismounted his scooter, ripped the flag from the grass, and flung it onto a concrete walkway. His mother, who was next to him on her bike, came to a full stop and waited for her son to throw the flag. The two then quickly rode off together.
The video, which has been reposted by others on Twitter since, has garnered millions of views, and many comments that argue that the mom should have done something to stop her son or have put the flag back instead of riding away.
“The fact that it is the American flag makes it so much worse,” Sibyl Margaretis said. “I was taught to respect our flag and our country. It’s disgraceful to allow what [the mother] allowed to happen.”
This apparently was not the boy’s first time removing a flag. A Mission Viejo resident told The Epoch Times via direct message that the same boy took a flag from her lawn too, although her camera didn’t capture the incident.
“I was not happy about it,” said the woman, who requested anonymity. “It’s our flag. And we’re supposed to respect it. But then, I saw that it was a child who did it. I have a 5-year old and I know how kids can be sometimes. What annoyed me was how the mom just stood there and let [her] son do things he’s not supposed to do.”
Others on social media have come to the family’s defense, saying the boy has autism and meant no disrespect for the U.S. flag. The mother reportedly apologized for the incident on Nextdoor, a social media forum where neighbors can connect and discuss hyper-local issues.
“The hate and vitriol the family has received from this is devastating and has put them under huge stress and worry,” Harris said. “It had nothing to do with the American flag in either of their minds. I don’t think this video should ever have been posted about or escalated to this place and the fact that it shows the face of a five-year-old child is wrong. It was not fair to be posted without any context and the fact that it has turned into ‘children are being taught to hate America’ is so far from the truth.”
Another Mission Viejo resident implored neighbors to show more compassion for the boy.
“Where is kindness and compassion?” the woman said on a social media post. “The child misbehaved and the young mother has publicly apologized. This has turned into a group bullying situation and the link should be removed. I am ashamed of all of you who have been so hateful.”