Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 5, 2008

Local shop flies American flag upside down

Hampel's employees call it a signal of 'distress'

TRAVERSE CITY -- Not everyone is excited about the nation's first black president. Some are downright hostile.

Employees at Hampel's Key and Lockshop on Randolph Street in Traverse City flew an American flag upside down Wednesday in protest of Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election.

And one employee directed a racial slur at Obama during a telephone interview with a Record-Eagle reporter.

"(The inverted flag is) an international signal for distress and we feel our country is in distress because the n----- got in," said Hampel's employee Rod Nyland, of Traverse City.

An hour later, Nyland apologized for the comment.

"I regret my choice of words. That was a poor choice and I apologize," he said. "It's probably not appropriate."

Hampel's Inc. is a gun and lock shop licensed by the state since 1989, according to state records. City tax records show the shop is owned by Karl Hampel of Traverse City, who could not be reached for comment.

Nyland said the upturned flag isn't meant to show disrespect to the United States and no customers complained about it. In fact, several customers agreed the nation is in "definite distress" after Obama's election victory Tuesday, he said.

"The whole campaign he said it wasn't a racial issue, but all the election coverage went right to how the first black man was elected president," Nyland said.

Hampel's salesman Jack Fellows said he is a spokesman for the gun shop. Nyland's comments weren't authorized and don't reflect his opinions, nor those of Karl Hampel, Fellows said.

But Fellows said Nyland had it right about their display of the flag as a distress warning for the country, he said.

"It's basically a display of alarm. The winning presidential candidate was not our choice and has the worst anti-gun record in Congress, let alone the Senate," Fellows said. "We feel we are facing a national crisis. Fine rhetoric is one thing, but the gentleman has no executive record whatsoever. He's not fitt to be president of the country."

Fellows said some gun owners are worried about their Second Amendment rights under an Obama administration.

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