While millions of Americans celebrated Independence Day, police arrested, and later released, Bryton Mellott, 22, after neighbors called to complain about a photo Mellott posted on Facebook, which showed him burning an American flag.
Mellott, from Urbana, Illinois, posted the photo showing him holding the inflamed flag late Sunday night. The post was accompanied by a note in which Mellott says he takes no “pride” in being an American. He cites racist police, profiteering gun manufacturers, and religious bigots as reasons he is “overwhelmingly ashamed” of America.
As was reported by The News-Gazette and other news outlets, he included the social media hashtag #ArrestMe.
Mellott’s note reportedly read:
I would like to one day feel a sense of pride toward my nationality again. But too little progress has been made. Too many people still suffer at the hands of politicians influenced by special interests. [T]oo many people are still being killed and brutlized [sic] by a police force plagued with authority complexes and racism. Too many people are allowed to be slaughtered for the sale of gun manufacturer profits. Too many Americans hold hate in their hearts in the name of their religion, and for fear of others. …. I do not have pride in my country. I am overwhelmingly ashamed, and I will demonstrate my feelings accordingly. #ArrestMe.
Mellott was released from the Urbana Police Department on Monday.
On Tuesday, Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz announced that her office would not charge Mellott for the flag-burning incident.
In 2013, the state of Illinois enacted a flag desecration law, which was the legal basis for Mellott’s arrest.
“The act of burning a flag is protected free speech according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Texas v. Johnson, 491 US 397 (1989),” the State’s Attorney’s Office said.
Urbana Police Chief Patrick J. Connolly also released a statement that said his police department “recognizes that this is a case where the right of free speech may have been in conflict with the safety of innocent and uninvolved citizens.”
“We respect the analysis of the State’s Attorney’s Office and their determination not to proceed with the prosecution in this matter,” Connolly’s statement concluded.