Will County Board GOP Leader defends flying American flag upside down

Says country is ‘in trouble,’ Dem leader says he did it for Trump

Steve Balich, Will County Board Republican Leader, speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Will County Coroner Facility on Tuesday, July 18th, 2023 in Joliet.

Will County Board Member Steve Balich, R-Orland Park, defended flying the American flag upside down, a controversy that appeared to be fading away until he brought it up at the end of a County Board meeting Thursday.

Balich also is supervisor at Homer Township, where he had the American flag flown upside down at the township building May 31.

“I put the flag upside down for a day,” Balich said at a point in the meeting when the floor is open for County Board members to comment as they see fit. “That was to say we’re in trouble, and we need to talk about that.”

Balich pointed to the growing price of groceries, the high price of gas, and two wars – presumably the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. He also said people are concerned about their families and children.

He did not mention the felony conviction of former President Donald Trump the day before Balich had the township’s American flag flown upside down.

Will County board member Jackie Traynere sits in on the Will County board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023 in Joliet.

The U.S. Code authorizes flying the flag upside down only “as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

“If the Russians had come and attacked us, I could see flying the flag upside down,” Jacqueline Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said in response to Balich’s comments.

Traynere also is the Democratic leader on the county board, which is evenly divided between the two parties and often engaged in partisan showdowns.

While Balich did not refer to the Trump conviction, Traynere did.

She pointed to the timing of the flag flying upside down in Homer Township while describing Trump’s court conviction by “a jury of his peers” as “the American way.”

Traynere’s comments may have set off board Chairwoman Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, who pointed to “certain board members” voicing reluctance to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance said at the start of county board meetings and defending the rights of protesters to burn the flag.

She suggested that some of the same people who defend the burning of the flag criticize Balich for flying it upside down.

“This flag-flopping is driving me crazy,” Ogalla said.

Turning the flag upside down has been done in a wide array of protests for years.

But the practice has been taken up by some Republicans to show support for Trump. The most publicized incident occurred when it was learned that the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito flew the flag upside down outside their home in January 2021 as Trump and his fiercest supporters claimed the presidential election was being stolen from them.

Balich said he contacted Homer Township board members individually before flying the flag upside down, and they agreed with the decision.

Ending his comments, Balich said, “God bless everybody, and God bless the United States of America.”