Connecticut Marines Fight for 'Don't Tread on Me' Flag Display

A group of retired Marines is asking Connecticut's attorney general to allow the "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden flag to fly over the state Capitol on July 4 after Capitol Police refused the request saying it doesn’t fall within the state’s flag flying parameters.

The group says the yellow banner, which sports a coiled rattlesnake and its trademark motto, is the original flag of the U.S. Marine Corps and clearly fits into the section of the policy which states that the Connecticut State Capitol can fly “flags of recognized military organizations of the U.S.A.”

But Capitol Police have denied several requests to fly the flag -- which has become a favorite nationwide among the Tea Party movement and a popular alternative to the stars and stripes – saying it is not the official Marines flag.

“The Gadsden flag was a personal standard used by one admiral during the Revolutionary War,” Capitol Chief of Police Walter Lee told “The Marine Corps never claimed that to be one of its organizational flags.”

Retired Marine Patrick Rubino says the Marines see it very differently.

“I’d learned about in the Marine Corps. It’s one of the first, if not the first Marine Corps flag,” Rubino told “They even flew it over our bases in Afghanistan and Iraq while I was there.”

Having heard that the police had denied a previous request to have the flag displayed at the Capitol, Rubino wrote a letter to lawmakers to find out why.

“I didn’t get any response from that so I just went down there and submitted a request to have it flown on Memorial Day because my brother was coming home from the Army so I thought it would be a great thing,” he said. “They denied it before I even filled out the form.”

The reason given for the rejection, Rubino said, was that the “rules were going to be changed” so they were denying it preemptively.

“And now I’m finding out they’re not even changing the rule so that the flag would be denied, they’re just denying it,” he said.

A follow up request from Rubino’s mother, Katheryn Brown, to fly it on July 4 was also denied.

But the policy wasn’t always so strictly interpreted.

The Society of Cincinnati, a historic group dedicated to preserving the ideals of the American Revolution has flown its flag over the Capitol every July 4 since at least 1968. It was denied this year amid the Gadsden flag flap.

Capitol Police even approved an earlier request to fly the Gadsden Flag over the Capitol in April, but reconsidered after lawmakers dubbed it a political symbol due to Tea Party connections to the request and said it didn’t fit the state’s requirements.

In hopes of settling the dispute, a group of former marines and supporters plan to gather at the state attorney general’s office to issue a final decision on the issue,.

“We’re going to be going down on the 30th to put the paper work in,” retired Marine Tim McCall told “The Capitol Police are the ones in charge of granting or denying the request, so the idea for the 30th is to go to AG Blumenthal’s office and request that he issue a directive for the Capitol Police to comply with the law as written and stated just to get some resolution on the issue.”

McCall added that if it's not in the cards to have the flag on display July 4, he hopes the matter is at least resolved in time to see it fly on October 23 to commemorate the 1983 barracks bombing of the Marines in Beirut, Lebanon, where he served.

“Historically, it’s like when you look at a picture of George Washington; he was the first president of the United States so as a patriotic American you look to George Washington as kind of representation as the forefather of the country,” McCall said. “The Gadsden flag is the original flag of the Marine Corps, so it’s the forefather standard of the Marine Corps.”

Rubino says that’s what the Connecticut government needs to keep in mind above anything else.

“I know the flag has been adopted by another group, but what it is and who decides to use it are two different things,” he said. “We know what it is and we know why we want it to be up there. ... It's a really important way to pay tribute to our history and that’s a great message.”