It is legal to desecrate the US flag since the ruling of the Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson in 1989. Desecration of the US flag is protected under the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech. However, on July 4, 2016, Bryton Mellot was arrested for desecration of the American flag in Illinois. Mellot had posted a picture of himself on Facebook of him holding a burning American flag. People who were upset by the post called the police department and it led to the arrest of Mellot. The police department decided to act due to the violent threats people were giving Mellot’s work and to Mellot himself. Mellot was arrested under Illinois flag desecration law and disorderly conduct. Mellot was eventually released due to Illinois law contradicting Supreme Court ruling. People have used desecration of the US flag in protest before. Bryton Mellot’s arrest shows the controversy behind this freedom of speech where some people believe it should even be illegal. Questions rise whether the police should protect the individual’s right of speech or should they protect the public from a possibly dangerous fire? The American flag’s symbolism has and will always be used in political speech. For example, it has been used in George Maciunas’ USA Surpasses all the Genocide Records! flag comparing Nazi Germany’s massacres to the US and other countries. Art and political speech often go together and flag desecration will often be a result. Some Americans agree that it is freedom of speech and others believe it should be a crime.
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