An Army veteran in Iowa was arrested and charged with desecrating the flag after he flew the U.S. flag upside down under a Chinese flag to protest a future oil pipeline near his house.
Homer Martz says the pipeline will be placed, without his consent, next to the well supplying his home, reports The Associated Press. The display on his home in Calhoun County, Iowa, is Martz’s form of protest against the lack of due process for not being informed about the pipeline.
He wrote a sign on the flagpole which read, “In China there is no freedom, no protesting, no due process. In Iowa? In America?”
Sheriffs deputies took the flags down on Aug. 11, without his consent. He put the flags back up and was arrested.
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Under Iowa code 718A, it’s a misdemeanor to “publically mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such a flag, standard color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state,” among other things. Flag desecration is punishable by up to 30 days behind bars.
“They said, ‘You can’t do this. We have a statute.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry but you shouldn’t have took them down,” he said. “So I walked back out and put them back up, and they arrested me.”
The Washington Times reports that Martz was not shown a order by authorities before the flags and sign were taken down. The officers reportedly told him the flagpole at the end of his driveway was on a public right of way, rather than on private land.
“If they had asked me to take them down, and showed me the statute, I would have taken them down,” said Martz. “But in my book, they trespassed by taking the flags down.”
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An Iowa Federal District Court judge ruled that Iowa’s flag desecration laws were unconstitutional in December 2014, according to the ACLU. Martz says the Supreme Court has ruled people can burn the U.S. flag.
More than 40 states have flag desecration laws that punish those who burn or harm American flags with fines or jail time. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in 1989 and 1990 that flag burning and other forms of damage to the flag were protected acts of free speech under the Constitution, according to AP.
“I’m a soldier,” Martz explained. “When I walked to the airport in the ‘70s with my dress uniform on, I was spit on. I stood in front of people that were protesting, and I’ve been cussed at. And like I said, that’s their rights. I never infringed on their rights.”
The pipeline Martz is protesting begins in North Dakota, runs through South Dakota and ends in Illinois.