The snake-bearing yellow banner declaring "Don't Tread on Me" was first used during the Revolutionary War. Designed by Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden, the flag drew on imagery popularized by Benjamin Franklin in a 1754 editorial cartoon of the American colonies as a rattlesnake. In the intermin centuries, the "Gadsden flag," as it's become known, has endured as a symbol of U.S. patriotism and struggle against government tyranny.
But because the flag was adopted this century by right-leaning political movements such as the Tea Party, liberals and government officials have grown suspicious of its symbolism, suggesting the Gadsden flag may indicate "terrorist or criminal operations" or connote white hostility toward blacks. Last week, legal scholar Eugene Volokh flagged a complaint currently under consideration by the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) over whether displaying Gadsden flag imagery in the workplace constitutes race-based harassment.
In response, some liberty-loving and meme-minded folks on Twitter began sharing Gadsden-flag alternatives culled from around the Internet with cuddlier featured creatures and more polite requests to be left alone—Gadsden flags for the safe space generation, if you will. I've rounded up some of the best of them below.