An Iowa man, who is also a U.S. Army veteran, was charged last week with desecrating the American flag after he hung it upside-down beneath the Chinese flag.
Somers, Iowa resident Homer Martz was arrested by Calhoun County sheriffs on Thursday for the display, which he said was in protest of an oil pipeline running adjacent to his home’s water well, according to The Fort Dodge Messenger.
“They said, ‘You can’t do this. We have a statute.’ I said I’m sorry but you shouldn’t have took them down,” Martz told The Messenger. “So I walked back out and put them back up, and they arrested me.”
According to Title 4, Section 8 of the U.S. Code, “the flag should never be displayed with the union down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
For this reason, demonstrators have often been seen displaying the American flag upside-down to signal extreme danger to the country itself.
However, Martz allegedly came in conflict with Iowa code 718A, under which he was charged with a misdemeanor, because he tried to “publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state.”
Martz claimed that he known of the Iowa statute he would never have displayed Old Glory as he did.
“If they had asked me to take them down, and showed me the statute, I would have taken them down,” he said. “But in my book, they trespassed by taking the flags down.”
However, as early as 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Texas v. Johnson that flag desecration statutes were unconstitutional, and that even burning the flag was considered speech protected under the First Amendment.
Martz said he also displayed the Chinese flag because he was denied due process of law when the Texas-based company Dakota Access was given permission to lay its pipeline across his property between his well and his home.
“In China there is no freedom, no protesting, no due process,” he wrote on a sign on the flagpole. “In Iowa? In America?”
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