An Illinois man’s anti-American rant just ahead of Independence Day earned him a trip to jail.
Bryton Mellott, 22, thought he was making a social justice statement when he posted disrespectful photos of himself burning the American flag on Facebook.
Along with the photo, Mellott’s post included a long list of complaints about his country as well as an ironic hashtag, though they were subsequently removed. According to The News-Gazette, the post read:
“I am not proud to be an American. In this moment, being proud of my country is to ignore the atrocities committed against people of color, people living in poverty, people who identify as women, and against my own queer community on a daily basis.
“I would like to one day feel a sense of pride toward my nationality again. But too little progress has been made. Too many people still suffer at the hands of politicians influenced by special interests. Too many people are still being killed and brutalized by a police force plagued with authority complexes and racism. Too many people are allowed to be slaughtered for the sake of gun manufacturer profits. Too many Americans hold hate in their hearts in the name of their religion, and for fear of others. And that’s only to speak of domestic issues.
“I do not have pride in my country. I am overwhelmingly ashamed, and I will demonstrate my feelings accordingly. #ArrestMe.”
The Urbana Police Department received multiple calls after the post appeared on Sunday, concerned over Mellott’s post and worried that something would happen to those around him, according to The News-Gazette.
Police found a rapidly growing number of threats toward Mellott and his place of employment, Wal-Mart, which reportedly fielded a large volume of calls regarding the post, police said. The threats of violence prompted police to speak with Mellott and his employer, the News-Gazette reported.
Urbana Police Sgt. Andrew Charles told Mellott that they “understood his freedom of speech” but his posts were putting himself and others at risk. But after Mellott disregarded the warning and continued posting similar photos on Facebook, police took action.
Mellott was reportedly arrested and charged with flag desecration under an Illinois state statute, a class four felony in the state. He was also charged with disorderly conduct. However, he was later released with a notice to appear in court due to questions about the constitutionality of the flag desecration law, police said.
In a news release, the police said the department “recognizes that this is a case where the right of free speech comes into conflict with the safety of uninvolved citizens. The actions taken in this case have been to try to assure the safety of the public and Mr. Mellott. The Urbana Police urge the public to express themselves in a peaceful way and to not retaliate against unpopular speech.”
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