by: Essex Porter Updated: Nov 29, 2016 – 9:08 PM
On Oct. 28, 1989, demonstrators at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Post Office burned an American flag. They were protesting a new federal law banning the burning of the national symbol.
Seattle’s Mark Haggerty was one of four people arrested for protesting the law. “I thought that that was infringement of freedom of speech … and I was hostile to the idea of American supremacy around the world,” he said.
Haggerty’s case was thrown out when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the flag burning law violated First Amendment free speech guarantees in the Constitution.
But in a tweet today, President-elect Donald Trump said to bring a flag burning ban back. “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American Flag – if they do there must be consequences- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail,” he tweeted.
Haggerty grew emotional as he responded.
“I see the flag, it’s like a psychological wall to me. It’s like the wall he wants to build on the southern border. It’s a wall, we’re American’s you aren’t, keep out. And that’s not how I feel. I feel affinity with all people, regardless of where they are born, where they come from, and I think that the way forward for humanity is, for the most part, cooperation,” he said.
But asked if he would burn a flag in protest today, Haggerty responded, “Probably not. I have a little bit different view. I think burning the flag kind of plays into the divisiveness … because people who really identify with the flag and identify themselves with being American they feel like I’m against them. And I don’t want to be against them. I don’t want to be against Trump supporters or against Trump. I think more now I want to unify people.
Seattle’s American Civil Liberties Union has also played an historic role — working to overturn flag burning laws since another Seattle case in 1970.
“Burning or defacing an American flag is your constitutional right even though it’s very, very offensive to a lot of people. Hopefully we won’t have to be involved another case. If we are, we’re ready,” ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said.
This is one thing both Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have agreed on. She sponsored an anti-flag burning bill when she was in the U.S. Senate.
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