By Brett Gillin
On July 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Fort Green Park in New York, there is a very good chance that hundreds of American Flags will be set ablaze in protest. The activist group known as “Disarm NYPD” is planning the protest just a few days before we celebrate our independence in response to the shooting deaths of nine people in Charleston earlier this month.
The activist group Disarm NYPD is a newly formed activist group with the mission of not only taking the weapons away from police officers in New York, but pushing the police out of neighborhoods entirely, according to Waging Nonviolence. Their webpage claims that the NYPD is “an illegitimate institution, and due to its violent, oppressive behavior, it has no claim to be able to continue its armed patrols in our communities.”
Their latest event, simply dubbed “Burn the American Flags” is the group’s form of protest against the actions taken by Dylan Roof, the alleged white supremacists shooter who viciously murdered nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof’s actions helped spark a debate about the Confederate flag, which many people see as a symbol of racism. Originally, the rally was to burn the Confederate flag, but was quickly updated to the new name.
According to a post on their Facebook page, Disarm NYPD claims “the Confederate flag has long been a symbol of white supremacy, slavery, and Jim Crow. However, the Confederacy lost the war the American flag has unceasingly, from the first day it was ever hung, represented the exact same thing.”
Disarm NYPD is asking that protestors bring along their own flags, be they Confederate or U.S., to the rally in order to burn them. At the time of this writing, nearly 300 people have RSVP’d for the event, and the event has been shared hundreds more times across social media sites.
Carlos Cadeza, a member of Disarm NYPD, told reporters with DNAinfo that the protest was scheduled to “stop the spread of racism in this country.” He acknowledged that some people will be offended by the protest, and they risk arrest, but insists that the protest is not against American culture, but against the racism they claim is entrenched within said culture.
While the group’s right to burn the flag is unquestionably protected by the Constitution and the First Amendment, Cadeza is correct that members of the protest do risk arrest. In New York City parks, it is against the law to “kindle, build, maintain, or use a fire in any place, portable receptacle, or grill except in places provided by the Department and so designated by sign or by special permit,” according to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation website. At the time of this writing, Disarm NYPD has not obtained a special permit for burning flags in Fort Greene Park.