A little over 30 miles from my home, a flag-burning case is all over the local news.
In Urbana, Illinois, Bryton Mellott, 22 years of age, was booked by local law enforcement for burning the U.S. flag as a form of political protest. Specifically, Mellott was booked for disorderly conduct and violating the Illinois flag desecration statute, which officially classifies flag desecration as a felony in Illinois.
I want to share my own thoughts about flag burning.
Unless there are aggravating circumstances in a particular case (such as flag burning on government property of any kind, flag burning on private property not owned by the individual burning the flag without permission from the property owner, or causing a broader public danger by burning the flag (such as igniting a wildfire or setting fire to something other than the flag)), flag burning should be considered a form of protected free speech. As someone who comes from a family that has had many family members serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, I regard the U.S. flag as a very important national symbol, and burning the U.S. flag is something that I would never do. If I wish to air some kind of grievance that I have about politics or government policy, I will write a blog post, either on this website or another website, about it. However, as long as no damage is being done to property other than the flag itself, the flag in question is the property of the individual burning it, and the flag burning is taking place on one’s own private property or, if on someone else’s property, with permission from the property owner, I don’t believe that flag burning should be a criminal offense of any kind. Keep in mind that I don’t personally approve of burning the flag as a form of protest, and it is something that I would never even consider doing. If you wish to dispose of a U.S. flag in a proper and dignified manner, I recommend contacting an organization like the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for information before disposing of the flag.
Also, I strongly disapprove of making violent threats towards people, even people who are convicted or accused of criminal activity. We have a judicial system in this country that is built on the principle of due process, not vigilantism.
CNN is now reporting that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Even though the military has not yet made a formal announcement regarding the Bergdahl case, CNN cited two sources, one of which was Sgt. Bergdahl’s attorney, in its report, which leads me to believe that CNN’s report is likely, but not certainly, accurate.
While the Republicans will inevitably use this opportunity to criticize President Barack Obama for swapping five Taliban members who were in U.S. custody in exchange for bringing Bergdahl back home, I will use this opportunity to defend the prisoner swap that brought Bergdahl back home to stand trial before our country’s military court system.
I think it’s absolutely disgusting that Republicans would rather allow the Haqqani terrorist network, a sworn enemy of the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, to effectively harbor an alleged criminal in Bergdahl than bring Bergdahl back to the U.S. to stand trial before a military court for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If it takes swapping five Taliban members for Bergdahl in order for Bergdahl to face military criminal charges for deserting the Army, that’s what it takes.
If a U.S. civilian fled to a foreign country to evade prosecution for crimes they allegedly committed in our country’s jurisdiction, the U.S. has, in my opinion, a responsibility to do everything necessary and proper to have the alleged criminal extradited back to the U.S. in order to stand trial here. The same principle applies with the Bergdahl case; the only differences are that Bergdahl is a U.S. Army member accused of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, Bergdahl was held in captivity by a sworn enemy of the U.S., and that Bergdahl will stand trial in a U.S. military court because of a prisoner swap between the Taliban and the United States.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article includes a YouTube video that depicts the death of Eric Gardner at the hands of NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Reader discretion is advised.
A Staten Island grand jury decided not to file any charges against New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer Daniel Pantaleo, despite the fact that Pantaleo killed Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who sold untaxed cigarettes, by chokehold, a maneuver that is banned by the NYPD, and that Garner’s death had been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.
Here’s the video of Pantaleo killing Garner:
Having watched the video once (I can’t stand to watch it multiple times), here’s my take on the no indictment decision (please note that I am not an attorney, and I don’t claim to be one): While Garner was resisting arrest, Pantaleo used excessive force to bring down Pantaleo. While I’m guessing that Pantaleo and the other officers on the scene were not aware that Garner had asthma, putting a chokehold on Gardner was not necessary for police officers to bring Garner to the ground and arrest him. In short, the no indictment decision was, in my opinion, total hogwash.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo used excessive force that led to the death of Eric Garner, and he should have been, at the very least, charged with manslaughter, if not murder. Sadly, a Staten Island grand jury let Pantaleo get away with killing Garner. Those who are protesting the decision in the New York City area and other parts of the country have every right to do so, as long as protesters don’t injure or kill people and don’t vandalize or damage property.
It’s 100% clear to me that there is a War on Blacks in this country.
By any reasonable standard, Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker should be behind bars and not in public office now. Walker has, among other things, illegally solicited $700,000 from an iron ore mining company to a right-wing political organization and has had public employees campaign for him on government time. Despite that, the justice system in Wisconsin and at the federal level has protected Walker, even allowing his right-wing cronies to argue that corruption is a form of free speech, an absolutely absurd claim.
Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson, earlier tonight, quite literally got away with murdering Michael Brown, Jr., an 18-year-old black teenager. That’s because a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the shooting occurred, decided not to press any charges whatsoever (not even for manslaughter) against Wilson. In fact, the St. Louis County, Missouri Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, basically gave Darren Wilson’s side of the story to explain why the grand jury decided not to press charges against Wilson.
The reason I’m trying to compare Walker and Wilson is this: If you’re a white man in a position of power in this country, you’re going to get considerably more favorable treatment from the justice system than anyone else. I think that’s wrong, and there needs to be real reform of the justice system in this country.