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CANTON: Flag removal results in controversy | News

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CANTON: Flag removal results in controversy
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CANTON, Ga. -- In the garage of Lori Pesta who heads up the group Salute to Our Veterans, she shows several large tupperwear storage boxes full of neatly rolled American flags.

They are the 3,000 flags she and volunteers carefully planted in the lawn of the park in downtown Canton for the tenth annivesary of the 9/11 attacks.  

They are the same flags she thought were stolen three days later -- until she found them piled in the old courthouse across the street behind a reception desk in boxes and trash cans.

"I filed a police report saying they were stolen then started walking to nearby buildings to ask if anyone had seen the flags.  When I saw them all piled there, upside down and some of them broken I was mortified," said Pesta.

It turns out Solicitor General David Cannon, Jr. is the person responsible for having the flags removed.

"I realize now it was the wrong thing to do.  I am very sorry," said Cannon.

Cannon said he thought organizers had just failed to remove the flags after the 9/11 festivities and had some teenagers in his pretrial detentionn program gather up the flags as part of their community service.

"I thought they'd fit in empty Xerox boxes, but they didn't so I used every thing I could find including a couple clean, empty waste baskets from my office," said Cannon.

"It is completely disrespectful to store flags that way, especially in trash cans,' said Pesta.

Pesta complained directly to Cannon, not to mention a number of angry emails and calls he says he's received from citizens and veteran groups.

"I was wrong.  I realize that now.  I should have checked and found out who the flags belonged to before removing them.  I thought someone would call the organizers and tell them where to pick them up," said Cannon.

Pesta said the flags were supposed to stay planted in the grass until Friday September 16, 2011, for a proper flag retirement ceremony.

"There is a proper way to remove and store flags after they've been displayed in the ground.  We had volunteers ready to hand roll them one by one and place them in safe storage for next year," said Pesta.

That ceremony had to be cancelled.

Pesta herself and a few others rolled the flags and she presented Cannon with a pamphlet about flag ettiquette.

"I just don't understand how an elected official at the highest level in the county could do something like this," said Pesta.

Meantime Cannon has said he's sorry in media interviews and a written apology to Pesta.

"I thought I was helping," said Cannon.

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