Sunday, July 14, 2024

Democrat Lawmaker Seeks to Criminalize Flying American Flag Upside Down

'Anytime there’s a penalty enhancement, their hair catches on fire. So, you’re going to fine somebody $25,000 for an expression of what I would think would be covered by the First Amendment...'

(Catrina Peterson, The Center Square) A Republican lawmaker and retired Air Force veteran in Illinois slammed state Democrats for introducing legislation to ban government officials from knowingly flying an upside-down flag on government property.

“Even as a veteran, I don’t lose my cool,” said state Rep. David Friess.

” … I understand that one of the greatest freedoms we have is free speech,” he added. “And I may not agree with an individual if he or she flies the flag upside down, but I absolutely respect your right to do that.”

State Rep. Harry Benton, a Democrat, drafted the legislation in response to what he claimed were politically motivated efforts that disrespected the American flag.

“The flag of the United States is an enduring symbol of our national spirit and pride, and of the sacrifices made by every generation of Americans,” he said.

Benton’s House Bill 5860 would make it a crime for a government official to knowingly cause the national flag to be displayed upside down on government property. He also filed House Bill 5861, which makes it punishable by a fine of up to $25,000.

Both bills could advance during the fall veto session in November.

Benton said he was inspired to draft the legislation by local incident in which a Will County official flew the American flag upside-down after former President Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents.

“The public official who made this sad choice—to disrespect our nation’s flag and everything it stands for—may be disappointed in the outcome of a certain criminal trial, but that is no excuse,” claimed Benton. “That he then attempted to deflect rising outrage by draping himself in the very same flag he’d just finished spitting on makes his actions all the more pathetic.”

County Supervisor Steve Balich reportedly ordered the national flag outside the Homer Township offices to be flown upside down after the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s conviction by a Manhattan jury in the case.

Many—including Friess—saw the verdict as a miscarriage of justice and a blatant attempt by leftist, George Soros-backed District Attorney Alvin Bragg to interfere in the 2024 election.

“You have a former president prosecuted. And I firmly believe that the only reason he was prosecuted is because he’s running for president again,” Friess said. “Had he not thrown his hat in the ring for 2024 … they would not have prosecuted him, no doubt in my mind.”

Other conservatives have appropriated the upside-down flag predominantly as a protest symbol after leftists attempted to turn an incident involving Martha-Ann Alito, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, into a media smear attack as part of a well-funded campaign to discredit the high court and eradicate its conservative majority.

But in a classic example of the so-called Streisand Effect, those efforts to stigmatize the Alitos have failed, with supporters on the Right now embracing the upside-down flag as the ultimate symbol of patriotism, representing a nation under attack or in a state of severe distress.

Benton said in a news release that both of his bills, House Bill 5860 and House Bill 5861, clarify that the flag may only be flown upside down in situations where there is dire distress or extreme danger to life or property, the purpose for which such display is prescribed in the U.S. Flag Code.

Some, however, have pointed out the irony over the fact that leftists have no issue celebrating far more egregious examples of flag-desecration—even flying the flags of terrorists and enemy combatants as symbols of protests—that are protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

Friess said when he saw House Bill 5861 making the offense of flying a flag upside down punishable by a fine of up to $25,000, he laughed out loud.

“This comes at a time when the Democrat party is doing everything they can to decriminalize any and all behavior,” he noted.

“Anytime there’s a penalty enhancement, their hair catches on fire,” he added. “So, you’re going to fine somebody $25,000 for an expression of what I would think would be covered by the First Amendment,” said Friess.

Although he doesn’t think the bills will go anywhere, he said he hopes Benton will couple the legislation with a measure prohibiting the burning of flags at Black Lives Matter or pro-Hamas protests.

“I would love to see him put out a bill that you can’t burn a flag during a pro-Hamas rally, a pro-Palestinian rally or BLM rally,” he said.

Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.

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