A risky new social-media trend called the #NoFlagginChallenge is encouraging people to tear down Confederate flags — where ever they see them, even on private property — adding fuel to an already fiery debate about the Southern icon.
In a series of videos which have taken the Internet by storm, people are stealing Confederate flags and then running away.
One posted to Facebook on Saturday shows a man run up to a home in Manatee County, Florida, to rip the banner off the pole in front of the house. That video alone had more than 4.5 million views and over 65,000 shares by Wednesday afternoon. Jamari Williams, who posted the video, did not immediately responded for comment.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a statement that a resident has come forward saying their house is the one in the video, and encouraged people to contact them with information on the suspect who snatched the flag.
Other videos shared with the #NoFlagginChallenge hashtag show people ripping off flags from cars and bolting.
In Anderson County, South Carolina, there were two separate incidents this past weekend involving Confederate flags stolen from a house and a car. Sheila Cole, public information officer for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office says there is no information yet that confirms the thefts were based on the hashtagged competition.
Yet, while some of the related tweets encourage others to rip down the flag, others are highlighting the danger of participating in this challenge.
People who support the flag are also getting involved in the movement, tweeting taunts to people participating in the challenge.
Mark Potok, senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, calls the challenge a dangerous game.
"Someone might get hurt and might get killed. The Confederate flag is already in trouble all around the country. This is not the way to proceed," he said.
Charlotte NAACP President Connie Mack also spoke out against the challenge, telling NBC affiliate WCNC that the game was illegal and dangerous.
"I am not happy, not pleased. You're on private property and God forbid with the Stand Your Ground law in North Carolina, you risk getting injured or killed,” Mack said. “I ask people not to take the challenge on-- do not do it.”
The controversial challenge comes just two weeks after activist Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole at the South Carolina Capitol and tore down the Confederate flag from a war memorial. Outcry over display of the Confederate flag was sparked by the attack on a historically black church in Charleston last month.
Potok, with the SPLC, said the social media challenge is fundamentally different than Newsome’s act of civil disobedience.
"What she did was in the tradition of real civil disobedience. She did it publicly and was willing to be arrested and understood that she probably would be arrested," he said.
Potok argues that most damage to the Confederate flag won’t come from dares like the #NoFlagginChallenge, but in fact from the upcoming Ku Klux Klan rally in favor of the flag expected in South Carolina this weekend.
"The no flagging trend could have the opposite effect," he said. "The irony is that the KKK rally will completely cement in the public mind the connection with the flag."