Friday, 20. January 2017, American events, National Flag Burning Day of Protest for Free Speech

from 20. January 2017 - 2:01
till 21. January 2017 - 12:00
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23 people attending
Event description
National Flag Burning Day of protest is not about the troops, and it’s not about the flag, and it’s not about accidentally, doing something to benefit the Trump camp. It is about the very real, and very immediate threat to our right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression; our right to object, to criticize, to gather, to organize, physically, or symbolically, when we object to the actions of our government.

Historically, we have always relied on the Supreme Court to protect the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. We cannot take such protections for granted under a Trump administration, and Supreme Court.

Law around the symbolic use of the flag- including but certainly not limited to burning- is a cornerstone of the bed rock of the First Amendment, which impacts everything from the individual to the media. What happens when we lose the ability to disagree with or critique the government and elected officials therein, including the President?

This week Donald Trump caused yet another uproar on Twitter over remarks made about criminally punishing Americans who burn the flag; a protected expression under the First Amendment.

We could lose that right when the next Congress convenes, and Trump is sworn in.

In 1968 congress passed the first ever federal flag desecration law in response to a flag burning incident in Central Park, New York, in protest of the war in Vietnam. The law made it illegal to publicly mutilate, deface, defile, burn, or trample on the flag. The case went to the Supreme Court, in favor of the individual, and against selective protection of the flag against symbolic use.

A 1969 decision by the Court overturned the conviction of a man who burned his own flag and said, in part, “we don’t need no **** flag,” after hearing about the assassination of a civil rights leader.

In 1972 a Massachusetts man had his conviction overturned by the Supreme Court; he wore a replica of the flag on the backside of his pants.

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In what can only be called an historic, precedent-setting case, a hippie in the state of Washington affixed a peace sign to an American flag in protest of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the shooting at Kent State University, and was charged with a crime. The case went to the Supreme Court, in favor of the individual. It marked the first time the court specifically drew out the distinction of the use of a flag as a means of protest, as a right protected under the First Amendment of the constitution. This is a pretty big deal. In a 1989 case, the Supreme court definitively cast the symbolic use of the flag as protected expression.

Since then, efforts have been made to neutralize or reverse laws, punishments, or consequences for the expression of personal opinion through use of the flag. But there has also been pushback. In 1990, Congress considered but did not pass a constitutional amendment which would empower federal and state government to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag.


Before America knew Donald Trump would be its next president, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana introduced a bill to amend the constitution to make symbolic acts like flag burning illegal at the state and federal level. It didn’t get a lot of traction, but, in the case of flag burning, it’s not the law itself, but the social climate. To introduce such an amendment in 2016 seems ridiculous. But it was just 10 years prior when the same amendment failed by just a single vote. It was the height of emotion of the post 9/11 era.

And now we enter the Trump era, with a Supreme Court seat waiting to be filled. Couple that with a Republican House and Senate all eager to please their new leader, lest they suffer his wrath. What happens to free speech, and freedom of expression then?

National Flag Burning Day of protest is not about the troops, and it’s not about the flag, and it’s not about accidentally, doing something to benefit the Trump camp. It is about the very real, and very immediate threat to our right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression; our right to object, to criticize, to gather, to organize, physically, or symbolically, when we object to the actions of our government.


Don’t get distracted.
#burntheflagforfreespeech

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