The White House has ordered American flags to fly at half-mast on official buildings across the country in tribute to five newsroom staff killed in a shooting at the Capital Gazette’s offices last week.
Five people were killed in the attack, including four journalists. Staff have told of their horror as they took cover from the shooter under their desks at the building in Annapolis, Maryland, a week ago today.
Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley requested to lower the US flag on all public buildings and military posts last week, but was initially refused before US President Donald Trump granted the request on Tuesday.
Governor Larry Hogan had ordered Maryland state flags to be lowered to half-mast from 29 June until sunset on 2 July, but national flags remained flying at full-mast.
In the US, only a state governor or the president can order a US national flag to be flown at half-mast.
Buckley said he had considered lowering the US flags regardless of Trump’s initial decision, but chose not to because “it would start to polarise people and I don’t want to make people angry”.
“It’s a horrible situation, but I think it’s the least respect we could give the journalists,” said Buckley. “It’s a little bit of comfort.”
He added: “This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”
Trump later said in a statement: “Our nation shares the sorrow of those affected by the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Americans across the country are united in calling upon God to be with the victims and to bring aid and comfort to their families and friends.”
Trump faced criticism for his delay in ordering US flags to be at half-mast across the country, with some saying his initial lack of action had not recognized the First Amendment mission of the news staff killed at the shooting on Thursday afternoon last week.
In a tweet yesterday Trump again continued his verbal attack on the media, describing The Washington Post as a “disgrace to journalism”.
He said: “The Washington Post is constantly quoting ‘anonymous sources’ that do not exist. Rarely do they use the name of anyone because there is no one to give them the kind of negative quote that they are looking for.
“They are a disgrace to journalism but then again, so are many others.”
Actor and comedian John Fuselgang retweeted the post, but added: “Meanwhile five other ‘enemies of the American people’ were still alive one week ago. He wouldn’t mention them, didn’t write the tweet about them, and had to be publicly shamed into flying the flag at half-mast.”
Buckley said he submitted his initial request to lower US flags through members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and was informed of Trump’s veto through Congressman John Sarbanes, but Sarbanes office would not confirm that it made the request.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Buckley on Monday night to confirm his request and then again on Tuesday morning, five days after the shooting.
Trump has previously ordered national flags to be at half-mast for other shootings, including the Texas high school shooting in May, and the Florida high school shooting in February.
In 2015, Trump criticised former president Barack Obama delaying five days to sign a proclamation to honour victims of the Chattanooga recruiting centre shootings.
He tweeted at the time: “I’m glad President Obama followed my lead and lowered the flags half-staff. It’s about time!” after lowering the flags on Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Flags at the White House and other federal buildings and ships were at half-mast until sunset on Tuesday.
Picture: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque