Flag Desecration Acts

March 21, 1994

Cleveland, OH: an American Flag was burning during a news conference in front of police headquarters. This incident was in response to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Ohio Supreme Court ruling overturning the earlier conviction of a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party who burned a flag in protest against the Persian Gulf War.

September 7, 1994

Lincoln, NE: one death penalty opponent burned an American Flag outside of the penitentiary where Harold Lamont "Walkin' Willie" Otey was executed. A crowd of approximately 1,000 had gathered to express either support or opposition to the death penalty.

November 2, 1994

San Marcos, CA: An American Flag was burned during a demonstration against Proposition 187. When another flag was doused with lighter fluid, a student snatched it away to prevent the desecration. He was beaten by protestors as a result of his action. (11/2/97, The San Diego Tribune, San Diego, CA).

January 10, 1995

Honolulu, HI: two American flags were burned by native Hawaiian protestors who maintained that the Kingdom of Hawaii is still sovereign. The activists said the purpose of their actions was to make a 'complete show of sovereignty."

February 27, 1995

Twentynine Palms, CA: the charred remnants of an American flag were discovered. The flag had flown over the Civic Center Professional Building near the city hall.

March 11, 1995

Pittsburgh, PA: two high school students burned an American flag to protest the fact that the government "builds arms and bombs and kills lots of people." Both students indicated they had burned flags in the past as a form of protest.

April, 1995

Betwyn, IL: a high school student burned an American flag at his home and brought the remnants to school where he displayed them in his locker. The student purported to make a symbolic statement against slavery, Japanese internment during World War II and other forms of discrimination.

June 8, 1995

Bloomington, IN: twenty flags were taken from poles and burned in the Valhalla Memory Gardens cemetery. The flags had been donated by the families of veterans buried at the cemetery, and were usually displayed between Memorial Day and Flag Day every year.

June 21, 1995

Hays, KS: the flag at city hall was taken down by an unknown individual and burned on the city hall steps with a Graham Greene novel.

July 9, 1995

Geneva, OH: the flag outside of an American Legion post was taken down and burned in front of a church a few blocks away. Several smaller flags were burned and torn at the site as well.

July 24, 1995

Hampton, NH: more than a dozen flags were stolen from public buildings in three seacoast towns. One flag was left at a police station with obscene messages about President Clinton and U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

September 16, 1995

Moore, OK: A Moore teenager was arrested for raising his car hood at a convenience store, then retrieved a full-size U.S. flag from inside the vehicle, and then used the flag to wipe oil from his car's dispstick. He will not be prosecuted.

March 8, 1996

Denver, CO: the American flag was trampled by students in protest of racism towards Hispanics outside of Kennedy High School in Denver.

March - June, 1996

Phoenix, AZ: "Old Glory": The American flag in Contemporary Art," an exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum, featured the following art works: the American flag stuffed in a toilet by Kate Millet; a headless crucifix with the American flag in the background by Hans Burkhardt; an American flag made out of human hair and skin by Andrew Krasnow; a man dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb holding a baby painted onto an American flag by Ronnie Cultrone; an American flag laid out on the floor in order for people to trample on it by Dread Scott; and an American flag with a lighter on top with a description that reads, "Now more fun than ever" by Erika Rothenberg. The exhibit sparked national controversy, including a demonstration by thousands demanding the exhibit's removal.

April 20, 1996

Evanston, IL: the American flag outside the home of 96-year old Richard Guess was burned by an unknown individual. Mr. Guess, a retired policeman, has flown a flag outside his home for the past 70 years.

April 22, 1996

Dacono, CO: A twenty-foot by thirty-foot flag belonging to the city of Dacono was stolen in broad daylight from the town's 160-foot water tower. The flag is the largest municipal flag in Colorado.

May 25, 1996

Fitchburg, MA: flags and white crosses placed by AMVETS Post 29 in Monument Park were destroyed during the night. The flags and crosses were among 116 that had been placed in the two days before the Memorial Day weekend to honor fallen comrades.

May 26, 1996

Orange, MA: fourteen American flags were burned under cover of night at Central Cemetery.

May 27, 1996

Wahpeton, ND: about 20 U.S. flags were torn down from poles along main street in the late evening/early morning hours. The 3-by-6 foot flags are put up every year for Memorial Day by the city's Fire Department.

May 27, 1996

Grand Forks, ND: flags decorating veteran's graves were stolen from cemeteries in the city. Some were later found in a dumpster at a local school.

May 28, 1996

Greenville, OH: a half-dozen American flags were either destroyed or stolen over Memorial Day weekend. The flags had been put up along Broadway in downtown Greenville by local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.

May - June, 1996

Morrefield, WV: more than a dozen flags were cut up by vandals during Memorial Day weekend, and again on Flag Day, June 14.

June 1, 1996

Worcester, MA: an unidentified individual dragged the American flag on the ground from his bicycle as part of a gay pride parade.

June 5, 1996

Indianapolis, IN: Mmoja Ajabu, a former Black Panther militia leader, and two militia members set fire to an American flag as the Olympic torch relay wound through the city. The flag was burned in protest of the Indiana Parole Board's vote earlier in the day recommending that Gov. Bayh deny a reprieve to Tommie Smith, a death-row inmate convicted in the 1980 shooting death of an Indianapolis police officer.

June 6, 1996

Jessup, PA: the flag which formerly covered the casket of a World War II hero was taken from a pole and burned at Holy Ghost Cemetery. The flag had been a gift of the family of the late PFC John Vervan to the Michael Steiner American Legion Post in Jessup. PFC Vervan had received the Bronze Star for valor at Saipan, Marianas Islands, June 15-July 9, 1944.

June 11, 1996

Santa Cruz, CA: in a protest over his benefits, Raymond Peterson set fire to an American Flag at a Social Security office. Peterson, who had been seeking to have his Social Security checks mailed directly to him instead of a guardian, also chained shut the door of the office.

June 16, 1996

Birmingham, AL: An American flag was burned by an audience member during a performance by the "Kevorkain Skull Poets" at the City Stages Festival.

June 18, 1996

La Paz, IN: flags flown outside of the local American Legion post were cut down and shredded by an unknown party.

July 1, 1996

Chicago Heights, IL: a burning American flag was doscovered by police along with a burning cross in the Park Forest area of Chicago Heights.

July 3, 1996

Coolbaugh Township, PA: several American flags were burned in a small cemetery in the Tobyhanna area during the night. The area has also suffered from recent Bible burnings and vandalism of religious objects.

July 4, 1996

Indianapolis, IN: protesters burned an American flag in front of a police station to protest the recent arrest of former Black Panther militia leader Mmoja Ajabu and the treatment of blacks in the United States. As police, and public news reporters looked on, the group's unidentified spokesman said the flag would be burned "to preserve the ideals that this country was founded on."

July 4, 1996

Galesburg, IL: two men in their mid-twenties burned an American flag in the middle of a street in the early evening. The men claimed they were burning the flag as their way of showing patriotism on Independence Day.

July 7, 1996

Holland, MI: five flags were stolen from downtown Holland during the course of the Independence Day weekend. Two of the flags were ripped away, leaving shreds of the flag still hanging from the poles. The other three flags were stolen along with their poles.

July 8, 1996

Troy, MI: a flag thief has struck several times in suburban Detroit neighborhoods -- his latest round included eight flags stolen from four locations. Flags have also been stolen and desecrated in Sterling Heights, Shelby Township and Auburn Hills, and police believe it is the work of the same individual, who has identified himself in writings left behind as the "Motor City Magic Man." Some of the flags have been recovered with a black "X" written across them.

July 14, 1996

Fajardo, Puerto Rico: onlookers cheered as an American flag was burned at an Independence Day Rally for Puerto Rico. The rally drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, according to newspaper accounts.

July 19, 1996

Atlanta, GA: a group of young people burned an American flag on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, although press reports were not clear as to what the group was protesting. A banner with the group read: "Food not Bombs."

August 3, 1996

Oak Lawn, IL: An American flag was removed from the front of a home on West Shore Drive and set on fire on top of a car there, destroying the flag and damaging the car.

August 14, 1996

Bunker Hill, MA: Unknown persons tore down the American flag, breaking the upper pulley at the Bunker Hill American Legion Post, threw the flag down on the ground in the parking lot, and then spun their wheels, throwing rocks over the flag.

August 27, 1996

Chicago, IL: a flag was burned as part of a large protest a block away from the Democratic National Convention. The protest of the "Not on the Guest List Coalition" drew about 1000 participants and snarled traffic near the United Center, causing many convention attendees to miss some of the evening's activities.

September 6 - 7, 1996

St. Maries, ID: unknown individuals burned U.S. flags flying outside of homes on successive nights. One home nearly caught fire as a result of the incident, while the family inside slept.

September 20, 1996

Appleton, WI: local youths have admitted stealing, burning and defecating on American flags in a series of more than 20 incidents in the Appleton area. One flag had been left with a note, "The Anarchist Platoon has invaded Appleton, and as long as you put flags up, were (sic) going to burn them." Press accounts report that the youths attribute their attitudes toward the flag to "listening to punk music."

September 23, 1996

Lares, Puerto Rico: demonstrators set a U.S. flag on fire during the Grito des Lares celebration to mark the anniversary of a failed 1968 revolt against Spain and to affirm their desire for independence from the United States.

October 7, 1996

Fort Smith, AR: a flag bearing a swastika and the word "abortion" was displayed hanging upside down outside of a house here. The home's owner said he had displayed the upside-down flag as a statement protesting the failure to overturn President Clinton's veto of a bill that would have outlawed partial- birth abortions.

January, 1997

Lansing, MI: as evidenced by WILX-TV, Channel 10, the NBC affiliate in Lansing, in the rotunda of the State Capitol, a young Michigan man wiped his rear end with the American Flag at the Governor's State of the State Address. The event was taped as the crowd chanted, "What do we want? Revolution. When do we want it? Now!" Police stood by and watched -- the courts say it's "free speech."

March 19, 1997

Greensboro, NC: A 17 year old high school student was charged with desecration of a flag, along with drug and drug paraphernalia possession, injury to personal property and having a weapon on school grounds. The weapon charge relates to the knife officials said he used to shred the American flag utilized by the school band. The school official thought it was "just vandalism." The teen was released from the Guilford County Detention Center on a $300 bond that same day.

March 28, 1997

Indianapolis, IN: During the college basketball Final Four playoff opening ceremony athe Pan Am Plaza, Mmoja Ajabu, the former Black Panther leader, began talking into a megaphone about "the system" being unfair. Reporters and news photographers witnessed Ajabu cutting up an American flag with a pair of scissors. An onlooker who was having none of it approached Ajabu and wrested the flag from him. The police closed in and removed Ajabu from the plaza. The flag disappeared along with its new owner.

April 1, 1997

Buffalo, NY: Hours after winning a LaCrosse playoff-clinching game the previous Saturday night, the starting goalie and another man climbed over a fence at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, grabbed the U.S. flag, threw it on the ground and snapped the flag pole in two. Both men were charged with criminal trespassing and criminal mischief, which are misdemeanors. The goalie is a Canadian citizen who plays for the Buffalo Bandits on a visa. It is not known whether the arrest would jeopardize the visa.

April 21, 1997

Honolulu, HI: Vandals desecrated the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific with dark red grafitti, spraying angry messages over memorial walls, flower vases and part of a U.S. flag. One wall bears the message, "H.P.D. ignores hate crime. Ignore this.", an apparent reference to the Honolulu Police Department. Next to the wall was a furled American flag which was also marked with lines of red paint. One the wall opposite was scrawled the sentence, "Let all visitors know - Hawaiians are racist." Honolulu police have classifed the vandalism as first-degree criminal property damage because of the $20,000 of projected clean-up costs. The police and the FBI also are treating the vandalism as a possible hate crime. The director of the veterans' cemetery said of the vandals, "the person or persons who did this lack conscience and are morally bankrupt."

May 17, 1997

Beverly, NJ: Vandals desecrated the grounds and dozens of American flags at the National Cemetery, uprooting shrubbery, yanking out deacon's benches, and ripping down dozens of American flags that had draped the caskets of servicemen. The local American Legion and VFW posts had just finished putting the finishing touches on the cemetery for Sunday's services and a larger parade for Memorial Day. The damage, which was estimated at $10,000, was discovered by a passing motorist who saw plants and a bench with an American flag lying on the roadway. The veterans groups are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the vandals.

May 24, 1997

Hollywood, FL: Vietnam veteran Bob Gagnon helplessly watched an American flag burn on his lawn this Memorial Day Weekend. He said he knew who set the fire. "Just before the fire, I was talking to some neighborhood kids, asking them why they didn't have a flag at their house. I talk to them all the time. I was just curious." The kids jeered him so he went to a neighbor's house, a WWII veteran. Five minutes after he started talking to the neighbor, someone yelled out "Hey, the front of your house is on fire!" They ran over to put it out, but it was too late. Police are investigating the incident.

May 26 - June 1, 1997

Klamath Falls, OR: Five of 100 American flags displayed at Klamath Memorial Park in honor of veterans were stolen over the past week. The flags, measuring 5 feet by 7 feet, cost $100 to replace, said Joe Collins, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1383.

May 26 - June 9, 1997

Wallingford, CT: The burning of four flags hanging outside downtown homes since Memorial Day weekend is beyond the realm of mischievous behavior, said a police spokesman. "When you have a fire that endangers personal property you are looking at a felony crime." One resident looked out to see his 6 by 9 foot flag that was draped on the side of his house ablaze, scorching the side of his house and burning a window shutter. The three remaining flag-burnings were discovered in the morning, having been set on fire sometime the previous night. There have been no suspects or leads in the case.

May 30, 1997

San Antonio, TX: Teenagers upset about a new dress code walked out of classes at Holmes High School in northern San Antonio and tore down and threatened to burn the U.S. flag and the Texas state flag to protest the changes that are to take effect this fall. Students pulled down the flags as students shouted "Burn them both." One of the protest organizers rushed to the fray to save the banners. "What they did with the flags is wrong. It's totally disrespectful to have it brought down in shame.", said ninth grader Eric Escue.

June 18, 1997

Aurora, IL: Three Aurora boys were arrested after they were seen burning a flag at 12:14 a.m. at a parking lot off N. Lake street. The boys, 16, 14 and 12, told police they had burned the American flag and thrown it in a trash container. One of the boys said it was his right to protest. All were charged with curfew violations and desecrating a flag and were released to the parents. The flag was retrieved from the container and placed into evidence.

July 4, 1997

Springfield, IL: Stealing an American flag was how one guy celebrated the Fourth of July in downtown Springfield. Passers-by who saw a man cut the rope on the Federal Building flag pole and haul down the flag about 9 p.m. called police. Officers caught up with 40-year old William G. Howard, at Second and Monroe streets, with the wadded-up flag at his feet. Howard was jailed on charges of criminal damage to government property, theft and flag desecration.

July 5, 1997

Massilon, OH: Authorities are trying to determine whether they can charge an Alliance teenager who burned an American flag after a Fourth of July observance. Court officials forwarded all paperwork involving the case of Kristina Koch, 17, to the county prosecutor's office for research. Koch set the flag on fire at about 12:30 a.m. shortly after Massilon's daylong, July 4 "Party in the Park" celebration had ended. Police Chief Mark D. Weldon said she was setting fire to the flag and then twirling it above her head when an off-duty police officer drove nearby. The officer stopped his car and showed her his badge, telling her "I won't allow you to burn my flag." The chief said a report of the incident said that Koch told the officer she burned the flag "because she could." The only law she could be in violation of is the local curfew law, which she violated by 30 minutes.

July 16, 1997

Wallingford, CT: Police charged 17-year-old Jeffrey Bartlett with setting fire to two American flags and said he may be responsible for 10 flag burnings that have angered and frustrated residents since April. He was charged with reckless burning and criminal attempt to commit reckless burning for burning flags at Church and Main Streets overnight. Bartlett made $5,000 bail and is due in Meriden Superior Court on August 25. Two more teenagers are suspects and may also be charged, police said. Bartlett is also suspected of setting fire to another half-dozen flags in the downtown area in April and May. Police said Bartlett had a motive for burning the flags, but police won't say just just yet what it is. They will say it is not a prank.

January 28, 1998

Anchorage, AK: A student at Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska discovered an American flag that had been unceremoniously dumped in a trash can inside one of the boy's restrooms. The student, also a cadet in Dimond High School's Army Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program retrieved the flag and turned it over to one of the JROTC staff officers, and was rewarded for having retrieved the flag for proper disposition.

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