LAFAYETTE, La. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana says a man has been unconstitutionally arrested in Lafayette on a charge of desecrating the American flag by setting one afire and tearing up another.
Online jail records indicate that 57-year-old Charri Mohamad was held Sunday on charges of flag desecration and entering or refusing to leave a place where he’d been forbidden.
Police arrested him Thursday after a complaint that surveillance video showed him setting an American flag on fire and tossing it near a pile of lumber behind a business on Sept. 19, KLFY-TV reported (http://bit.ly/2d1DrYb). Police said video from another surveillance camera showed the same man tearing up another flag in front of the business.
The fire did not spread and there was no property damage, according to the arrest report.
“While Mohamad’s actions may seem distasteful to some, they are not illegal,” the ACLU said in a news release. “No one should be arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal flag protection law in 1990 and, in 1991, did the same to a Texas law that made it illegal to burn or otherwise destroy a flag, wrote Marjorie Esman, executive director for ACLU of Louisiana. The later ruling also invalidated similar laws in 47 other states, she said.
Lafayette police didn’t respond to an email Sunday requesting comment.
It wasn’t clear whether Mohamad has an attorney. The ACLU’s news release responded to news reports.
This story has been corrected to show that the date of U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning state laws was 1991 not 1990.