Video captured the burning of an American flag on July 4th in a Walmart parking lot in southern Virginia and the man behind the burning has been arrested.
Mitchell Lee Stauffer, who is 23 years old, was not placed under arrest for the actual burning of the American flag since that is protected by his First Amendment right. He was, however, arrested for burning the flag in public with the intent to intimidate.
“Mitchell Lee Stauffer was arrested today, July 4, 2019, for burning an object in a public place with the intent to intimidate,” the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office announced on Facebook.
The announcement continued by saying that Stauffer not only burned the flag, but he was also yelling in front of bystanders which made some people nervous.
“Mitchell Stauffer went to the Wal-Mart in the 2600 Block of George Washington Memorial Highway, threw an American Flag on the ground, put gas on it, set it on fire and drove away. He was yelling while doing so which made bystanders very nervous,” they wrote. “He was not arrested for his First Amendment Right to burn the flag but for burning an object in a public place with the intent to intimidate.”
Sheriff Danny Diggs added that he is personally offended by the burning of the American flag, but the flag itself has little to do with why Stauffer was arrested.
“The burning of our great American Flag is very offensive to most people including me. That being said, the courts have ruled that act alone is an expression of free speech and not per se illegal. This charge is appropriate under the Code of Virginia. It is fortunate that no one was injured today,” he said.
The burning took place on July 4th in the morning.
“This county f*cking hates you,” the man in the flag-burning video — who is presumably Stauffer — can be heard yelling. “It wouldn’t give a sh*t if you die.”
“We think this was to induce fear,” Diggs told Fox News about the flag burning. “It’s really irrelevant if it was an American flag. He could have set fire to a towel and he would have been charged.”
Video of the flag burning was captured by a Walmart employee.
Many have taken to social media to condemn the flag burning and to applaud officers for placing the man under arrest.
“Thank you for arresting this guy. Enough is enough. I’m sure all patriots, Veterans and active duty are grateful,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.
Another responded, “Good job. Thank you officers.”
“Great work from the Sheriffs department and all others involved,” replied another user.
The charge Stauffer faces is a Class 6 felony. It is punishable by one to five years in jail or a $2,500 fine.
Some conservative users on Twitter also condemned Stauffer and flag burning in general.
“This is complete insanity, anyone who burns the American flag should be dropped over North Korea,” one user wrote in reaction to the Stauffer story.
This is complete insanity, anyone who burns the American flag should be dropped over North Korea
— Cynthia M (@CynthiaM27) July 5, 2019
Another added, “It’s just gross.”
It’s just gross
— Sadie Stormborn 🤓 (@SadieStormborn) July 4, 2019
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