During the protests erupting across the nation after George Floyd’s killing, violence and property destruction have occurred.  Also, some flag burning.  For example, on June 23rd, protestors strung an American flag to a traffic light pole in Lafayette Park and set it ablaze. 

Violence and property destruction are illegal.  However, flag burning is protected by the First Amendment.

Donald Trump used to know and respect that difference.  On January 8, 2015, Trump appeared on David Letterman as a candidate for President of the United States. 

Letterman spoke of how one reason he is proud to be an American is because of our rights to protest. “If that’s how you feel, go ahead and burn the flag. Because this country is far greater than that symbol, and that symbol is standing for freedom of expression.”

Trump responded by saying, “Sure. You’re 100 percent right, I understand where you’re coming from. It’s terrific.”

But as President, he’s dramatically changed his tune.  In November 2016 he tweeted, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” 

In 2019, two republican Senators proposed that a new amendment be added to the constitution that would make flag burning illegal. Trump said he would “100%” back that, calling it a “no brainer.” 

And then this week, he took to twitter to say that Congress needs to, “do something about the lowlifes that burn the flag.” 

This is 100% the wrong message for Republicans and the President of the United States.  Really, no American should support this infringement on our rights.  When peaceful protest is banned (or mocked or otherwise stigmatized), it makes violent protest more inevitable.

Personally, I think flag burning is reprehensible. 

But we should not outlaw it.

We should loudly proclaim it’s horrible, instead of trying to ban it. Meet free bad speech with free good speech.

Freedom of speech is the FIRST amendment. Once you take that away from the country, the flag no longer stands for what it once did. 

There is a silver lining.  President Trump’s position is likely popular with the base, but outlawing flag burning won’t happen. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that burning the flag is protected under the First Amendment. 

The country has far bigger problems to deal with right now. 

Here’s an idea.  If we conservatives say we want peaceful protest, we shouldn’t threaten to put people in jail for doing just that.

Hat Tip: LA Times, Fox News

Image Credit: Wikimedia

 

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.