Veteran-Turned-Playboy Model Gets Detained After Taking Flag From Protesters

Michelle Manhart, a veteran, had previously posed for the iconic magazine.

ByMEGHAN KENEALLY
April 20, 2015, 12:45 PM

— -- A veteran-turned-Playboy model was detained after an altercation on a college campus when she tried to take an American flag away from a group of protesters who had been stomping on it.

Michelle Manhart told ABC News she became involved after hearing from a student at Valdosta State University that the protests had been going on for three days -- something that upset her.

"When she first wrote me and told me this was happening I was immediately outraged that a state and federally-funded campus with veterans on it would allow this to happen," Manhart told ABC News.

"It’s just so blatant," she added.

The group of three protesters was not a registered student group a school spokesman told ABC News that only two of them have been confirmed as students. The specific point of their protest was not explicitly clear, but Andy Clark, the vice president of the school’s communications department told ABC News that “it was around race, race relations” and that the protesters were reciting some Malcolm X readings.

Clark confirmed that the students did not have permits that are normally required for protests on campus, but added that “we have a procedure but for the most part… the university errs on the side of the First Amendment.”

When the married mother-of-two arrived on campus this past Friday, she saw campus police -- who she said did not intervene -- standing about 25 feet away from the protesters. Once they started stomping on the flag, Manhart said that's when she decided to get involved and picked up the flag.

PHOTO: In an image made from video released on April 18, 2015, former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart is detained by police officers on the campus of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.
In an image made from video released on April 18, 2015, former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart is detained by police officers on the campus of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. after attempting to remove a flag that had been stepped on during a protest.
Courtesy Michelle Manhart

Manhart said she got close to the parking lot before one of the protesters confronted her, leading to a larger argument.

Manhart’s daughter, who plans to join the Air Force, filmed the incident and later posted it to her mother’s Facebook account.

Manhart’s husband, who is currently serving in the Air Force in South Korea, posted it on YouTube and the video of the confrontation, which ended in campus police forcing Michelle Manhart to the ground, putting her in handcuffs and detaining her, has gone viral.

"I'm all about the First Amendment and I’m all about people speaking, but I don’t understand how people are able to desecrate the one iconic emblem that allows them to have it," she told ABC News.

PHOTO: Then U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart poses with the February issue of Playboy magazine in San Antonio, Jan. 11, 2007.
Then U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart poses with the February issue of Playboy magazine in San Antonio, Jan. 11, 2007.
Eric Gay/AP Photo

Manhart said she was never charged.

Clarktold ABC News that Manhart has been issued a criminal trespass warning which states that if she goes back on campus, school police have the right to arrest her, though the warning may be lifted at a later date.

Manhart, 38, says she served in the Air Force for 14 years before being honorably discharged following her decision to pose, as she described as "very respectfully," in Playboy in 2007.

PHOTO: In an image made from video released on April 18, 2015, former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart is detained by police officers on the campus of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.
In an image made from video released on April 18, 2015, former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart is detained by police officers on the campus of Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga. after attempting to remove a flag that had been stepped on during a protest.
Courtesy Michelle Manhart

Manhart now owns a tanning salon in the same town as the school and she said that she is disappointed by the decision to ban her from campus because it means she will not be able to attend some of her employee’s graduation ceremonies.

She is now involved in planning a rally on Friday directly outside of the campus to draw attention to the incident and the school’s handling of the protest.

"I wonder if "Donors" of VSU are ok with this blatant disrespect of the flag," she wrote in the original Facebook post.

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