An American flag hung abnormally from Jim Stanford’s hands on Town Square, where he stood for more than two hours Wednesday in protest of the U.S. Senate’s vote to acquit President Trump.
“Your flag’s upside down,” a woman shouted from the window of her Suburban while stopped at a red light in Jackson’s busiest intersection. Stanford, a town councilor, told her he was aware.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because the republic is in distress,” he said.
When he heard Wednesday of the Senate vote — which marked the close of an impeachment trial that ended, as expected, with acquittal along party lines — Stanford donned his father’s Vietnam Army uniform, and a warm hat and gloves, and stepped into the freezing February afternoon.
The display drew attention from dozens of passing drivers and pedestrians. Some grasped its meaning immediately, honking or waving or giving a peace sign in agreement.
Others sneered and barked at Stanford to “turn it around.”
One displeased man driving along Cache Street in a pickup made his thoughts aggressively clear.
“I’ll turn you upside down, how ’bout that?” he said.
Stanford acknowledged his mode of expression was a “potent symbol,” but, he added, “I don’t take this lightly.”
He insisted he meant no disrespect to the country, its veterans or its iconic red, white and blue banner. He glanced down regularly to ensure the flag never touched the ground.
Rather, what he hoped to convey was the threat he senses in a nation ruled by partisan interests. Specifically, he aimed his protest at Wyoming’s U.S. senators, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both of whom voted to acquit the president and who earlier voted against accepting new evidence in the trial against him.
Just one Republican, Mitt Romney, of Utah, voted to convict Trump.
“I feel like our senators have not just been complicit in this,” Stanford said. “They’ve enabled it.”
His outstretched arms growing heavy after more than an hour, he carefully folded his flag to take a break. He backed away from the intersection, toward where his dog lay leashed to a post near the antler arch.
“Camille’s not too happy, either,” he said, half joking.
Though Stanford is one of the town’s five elected officials, he stressed, “I’m doing this on my own,” rather than using the Town Council pulpit to make his point.
Stanford, a former journalist and blogger, was elected to the Town Council in 2012. He works as a river guide in addition to serving on the council.
Some people he interacted with continued on unaware of his public office.
After a moment of respite, he unfurled the flag again and stepped back to the curb.
Another woman stopped at the intersection leaned out her window to inquire about the demonstration.
“Are you happy or sad the president was acquitted?” she asked.
“I’m sad,” he said. “I wish I didn’t have to be here.”
“Me too,” she said. “Thank you. Keep up the good work.”