During the old normal, the past few weeks would have been rife with red, white and blue. As a photographer, I would be framing the American flag in pictures, as it waves in front of parades, parties and picnics.

But as we pass the midpoint in the 2020 new normal, there are many in our country who don’t believe that the American flag waves for everyone. It sometimes gets written on, turned upside down or burned.

Protesters in Northeast Philadelphia demonstrate against racism in early June.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Protesters in Northeast Philadelphia demonstrate against racism in early June.

As a visual reporter, symbolism is a part of my stock-in-trade. I use it almost every day, so I can understand the many different things it can stand for.

But one of the most important things our flag represents is our constitutional right as citizens to protest our government. This political speech is protected by the same First Amendment that allows journalists the freedom to make sure that our government is accountable to us.

We are free to express themselves and can use the flag to do so. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that right when they ruled in 1989 that flag burning is a First Amendment supported form of free speech.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking for the majority said, “the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

Since 1998, a black-and-white photo has appeared every Monday in staff photographer Tom Gralish’s photo column in The Inquirer’s local news section. Here are the most recent, in color: