portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article oregon & cascadia

human & civil rights | imperialism & war | media criticism

FLAG BURNING LEGAL. EUGENE WAR PROTEST SATURDAY 12NOON FED BLDG.

Flag Burning is solidly protected by a decision of the United States Supreme Court. Flag Burning is a form of protected free speech in U.S. popular during unpopular U.S. wars. Phillopines, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Santo Domingo, Afganistan). Police and corporate media blur rights.




Michel Foucault, noted semotician, pyrotechnist, and constitutional legal scholar has today spoken out of attempts by Eugene Police and Eugene Corporate Media to imply that a recent wave of U.S. flag burning in front of the U.S. Federal Building in Eugene is illicit. A minor of
Flag burning is as a poltical act legal and protected by a solid U.S. Supreme Court Decision. But:

1. It has to be your flag... i.e. a U.S. flag you have purchased or otherwise come into legal possession of. You can burn your own property. You can't grab someone elses property and burn it.

2. You can't wrecklessly endanger others by starting fire to a flag, or for that matter burn any object that realistically could spread and burn a building down and kill people. In an outdoor political context, unless it is exceedingly hot and dry (which it is unlikely to be in Eugene on Saturday) this risk is small. But don't throw the flag near people or where cars might catch on fire. Some suggest keeping a fire extinguisher or bucket of water handy in case someone gets to near it...that way if a jacket sleeve accidently catches on fire, it can be quickly put out.

Some see flag burning as alienating American middle class and workers who might otherwise be sypathetic to an anti-war position. Others see it as a strong statement of solidarity with the other countries of the world, oppressed people worldwide, as well as a solidarity with "black bloc", alienated youth, and other radicals in cities across the U.S.

Burning a flag with an overpainted swastica or dollar sign shows a more specific protest. Burning a flag that has a blue peace sign instead of the blue field of stars is probably a pro-war semiotic.

In Eugene activists have shown more respect shown to each other recently. Less radical activists who still want the U.S. constitution restored, democracy preserved, and an end to war and to the war economy on the one hand... on the other hand more anti-imperialist radicals, protestors who might wear "black bloc" and have more radical street tactics. Each side can see that the others are working hard right now. And each side can see that the police and particularly the corporate media is doing everything it can to drive a wedge between "legitimate" but ignorable protesters, and rude radicals who are numericaly smaller.

U.S. flags have been burned this week in front of the U.S. Federal Courthouse at Eighth and Oak, Eugene. Whether these acts are effective or ineffective as a tactic, these flag burning acts are clearly a form of political protest against Mr. Bush Iraq war Blitzkeig, against his implied schedule of additional wars in the Middle East and North Korea with a whole war economy built on ongoing "wars on terrorism," and perhaps against the gutting of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Bill of Rights through the so-called Patriot Act and the Patriot Act II.billed as a "new world order" of "wars on terrorism" that also net stimulation to U.S. economy.

The U.S. flag then is as much a 'floating signifyer' as other common symbols, and its meaning depends on context. The word 'fire', for example is a great word to yell if smoke breaks out in a crowded theater. But its the wrong word to yell if cops are intimidating peaceful protestors with pointed rifles.

The U.S. flag was a powerful symbol, dozens waved by Palestinian mourners at a funeral in Israel this week, a funeral for 23 year old Evergreen State student Rachel Corrie. ( Corrie gave her life defending a Palestinian family's home...an Israeli bulldozer approached her as she stood in a clear feild for several minutes. In broad daylight he wore a bright orange jacket. She shouted at the driver with a bullhorn to stop. She knelled down challenging the driver to stop, protecting the house behind her. The driver chose not to.)

The right of Palistinians to wave the U.S. flag was of course challenged by the Israeli troops, who tear gassed the funeral because of it. But it was their way of honoring a brave American.

But in the Eugene context this weekend, the U.S. flag displayed on a car antenna or back windshield safely can be read as a statement of support for the Bush war in Iraq and support for "the troops being over there", just as much as the "peace symbol", a circle with vertical line and two diagonal line, shows opposition to the Iraq war.

So to burn the U.S. flag at the U.S. Federal Building is obviously a political statement against the war.

While many flags have been burned in the Eugene community in the last four days, on at least two occasions Eugene Police, acting possibly without legal council, have interfered with the completion of this political act. In other words they stepped in to "rescue" the flag, to the delight of a small number of fascist counter-protestors.

If anyone tries to stop your flag burning, you have two courses of action. You can give up...perhaps get an I.D. on the police or right wing kook that interfers and file a civil suit later. Or you go right ahead, assert your rights, maybe have a back-up flag. If its a policeperson that is ignorant of the law, you may of course be arrested anyway. But you may prevail in court and even win a lot of money in a civil suit if your constutional right of free speech has been qualshed.

The Eugene Corporate Media, as part of "shock and awe" warmongering, has cleaverly infered that flag burning is illegal, and has at the same time failed to disclose that interfering with flag burning is in most cases illegal. The media, if not the cops, has also attempted to stir up support for the war in general, so one or more right wing kook could of course come to today's Federal Building demonstration or to a future demonstation...and could attempt to steal your flag and rescue it as their own political statement. So if anyone takes any ideas from this discussion, which its author doesn't advocate, since the author presents the above as info that is solely his/her own musings and not in any way expert or inflamatory... but again if you do decide to do any form of flag related or other political protest, you should have witnesses with a note pad and get a good description of who steals your property. You can hang onto to your flag or attempt to retrieve it but not assult the person who might attempt to grab it. You can follow them and get thier licence perhaps...unless they are a big bunch of drunk marines trying to lead you into a back alley. If a police authority requests your flag, hand it over for the time being. Don't try to start a riot. Again, good civil rights attorneys are available in Eugene and elsewhere to help you win lawsuits if your free speech rights are intentionally trammeled on.

burn baby, burn! 22.Mar.2003 07:48

loreninha

Keep up the good work! IŽm overseas but I wish I were there!Flag burning is a good way to say Žnot in our name!Žand take a stand in this complacent(albeit loveable) town. Show your strength - your message is loud and clear!

Iraqi Flag was replaced with american flag 22.Mar.2003 07:53

capsicum

Saw on the news last night the way overused image of Iragis helping U.S. soldiers tear down a picture of Hussein...

Then there was a much downplayed story-- that the soldiers, marines I think, then took down the Iraqi flag and replaced it with an American one... and that the american flag was removed quickly and replaced once again with an Iraqi flag

Shame on you 22.Mar.2003 09:56

Not a flag burner

Do you want people to really listen to your message? Don't piss them off by burning YOUR flag. it's great you have the RIGHT to burn it, we are a free country. But by burning the flag you are drawing a line in the sand between yourself, and those of us who really want peace and love this country. I didn't want this war, still don't, but I love American and my country, and my flag. It's disrespectful and I can't bring myself to support the peace demonstrations because I don't want to be associated with people who burn the flag and look like damn radicals, I'm glad you're not running the country, we'd disolve as a nation.

running the nation 22.Mar.2003 10:27

tim

"I'm glad you're not running the country, we'd disolve as a nation."

i think that's the point...