“Here I am. The man with the flag.” So starts Vincent Xavier Palathingal’s Youtube video in which he ‘explains, but does not apologize for’ his decision to wave the Indian national flag at the Capitol Hill protest last Wednesday.
The photo went viral in the Indian media, sparking controversy from Indian politicians like Former Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan and Indian Parliament member Varun Gandhi. Sreenivasan stated in an op ed, “He should have known that it was a motley crowd of White supremacists and other goons, who were ready to kill.”
But who is the man behind the flag? He was born Vinson Palathingal in the Kochi region of India and came to America to receive his master’s degree in the late nineties. In 98, he started his own business and he and his wife started their family in Fairfax County. In those days, he was a Democrat and voted for Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. Of his Democrat past, he says he was “confused”. In 2013, he began to see Obama’s handling of healthcare as a big problem, and became a Republican in 2015. Trump, as he saw it, was a man not unlike Xavier himself: a businessman, a straight talker, and a go-getter. Like Trump, Xavier saw big problems with the way things were going in the country.
His first platform was as a school board candidate for Fairfax County Public schools. Throughout the education of his two sons, he states that the district experienced a ‘deterioration’. He ran for school board in 2019 on a platform of meritocracy and parental involvement. He lost the school board election, but was elected as Vice Chair for Community Outreach of the Fairfax Republican party.
On January 6th, he and a group of like minded friends, attended the Capital Hill rally, to show support for ‘weak’ congresspeople who would be voting whether or not to object. He carried an American flag and an Indian flag. The Indian flag, he says, was to show support for the president on behalf of the Indian community and to show the diversity of Trump’s base.
The group saw that the gate to the Capitol lawn was open, and so they proceeded to stand on it. They noticed that there was teargas at the front of the rally, which they assumed was to discourage people from getting too close. Unable to connect to the Internet or see what was going on, Xavier called his wife, who turned on the news and saw that someone had been shot inside. (The victim, later revealed to be Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who was a strong supporter of President Donald Trump.)
At that point, Xavier and the rest of the group returned to their metro stop and then home. He was disappointed. He described it as the saddest day he’s ever experienced in his decades of living in America. He felt the message he was trying to communicate was hijacked by those who committed the violence.
“I hate political violence. Everyone who was involved in the violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of political affiliation.”
He’s not convinced, however, that the people who committed the violence were there for the same cause as him. “It’s really hard to be a Trump supporter. What Trump supporter would be that stupid?”
In statements made to various media organizations, he seemed to cast blame on leftists, once specifically calling out Black Lives Matter. However on Wednesday he told Fairfax Times that he wasn’t sure, and he didn’t have any proof, but that he didn’t see how a Republican could do such a thing.
Xavier does believe that Biden will be inaugurated, as planned on January 20th, but that he will be a “very weak” president.
The Fairfax Republican party condemned the violence at the suggestion of a follower on January 7th, stating We support the peaceful exercise of free speech, consistent with law and order. Of course we condemn yesterday’s lawlessness in our nation’s capital. We unequivocally oppose all political violence, to include the destruction of property, no matter the stated cause.”
Additionally, Fairfax GOP Chairman Steve Knotts offered the following statement on Xavier’s behalf: “The Fairfax GOP will always defend the right of citizens to lawfully express themselves, as Vinson did last week. Of course, we unequivocally oppose all political violence, and we know Vinson fully shares this conviction. Vinson broke no laws last week. All Vinson did was peacefully exercise his First Amendment rights, and for that he is now being viciously attacked and defamed by the intolerant, authoritarian Left. We proudly stand with Vinson, and we remain thankful for his continued leadership.”