Bryton Mellott, 22, of Urbana, Illinois, burned an American flag and posted a photo of the act to his Facebook page. People reacting to the photo sent him death threats and reportedly even made threats against him employer, Walmart.
Police reviewed the photo Mr. Mellott posted on Facebook. They then went to Walmart to investigate the threats and to speak to Mr. Mellott. Because he declined to remove the Facebook post to “deescalate” the situation, the police arrested him.
They used a 2013 Illinois flag desecration law as grounds for the arrest.
Mellott was then released from custody after State’s Attorney Julia Rietz declined to file charges. She questioned the validity of the 2013 Illinois desecration law, pointing out that burning a flag is protected free speech.
Of course it is.
Some people want to treat the flag like an Islamist treats the Quran. If you value the flag than you should value the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment. If you don’t support Mr. Mellott’s right to free speech, even if you find how he expressed himself repulsive than you’ve helped make the flag meaningless.
Personally, I’m not a fan of flag burning. That’s why I choose not to do it. I have an American Flag displayed 24 hours a day in from of my home. I value the American flag because of what it represents.
The police really screwed up. They arrested Mr. Mellott because he would not do what they asked him to do, to remove the image from Facebook. They were wrong to ask him to remove the post and they were wrong to arrest him. They not only arrested him, they even published his personal information online, including his home address. What’s worse than getting online death threats? Having your local police then publish your home address.
My guess is that this will result in a civil rights lawsuit, a lawsuit Mr. Mellott will surely win. Good for him.
If the police were in the mood to arrest anyone, they should have arrested the people making threats against Mr. Mellott and his employer. Those people are the criminals, not Mr. Mellott. That might take some real police work. I guess it’s just easier to arrest some dumb unpatriotic kid working at Walmart.