UPDATE: Matt Uhrin, the FedEx employee who stopped the burning of the American flag will not be fired from the company, according to a social media post by FedEx.
We have reviewed the matter in Iowa City involving driver Matt Uhrin. He remains a FedEx employee & we have no plans to change his status.
— FedEx (@FedEx) January 28, 2017
A flag-burning protest at a mall in Iowa turned violent after a FedEx worker attempted to stop the event with a fire extinguisher.
The incident took place outside of an Iowa City pedestrian mall on Thursday after a group of protesters began burning American flags in protest of what they feel is a prevalence of racial/social injustice and US imperialism.
“When I see the flag, I see racial injustice,” said Paul Osgerby. “I see social injustice from Native American genocide to African-American slavery to failing to recognize women as citizens until the 20th century.”
The burning of the flags was interrupted by FedEx employee Matt Uhrin, who rushed out with a fire extinguisher, saving the flags and taking one from a protester. During the incident, Uhrin -who said little more than that his employer had nothing to do with his actions- was pursued and a scuffle ensued.
Onlooker Bob Guyer said the act was disrespectful to veterans and those who sacrificed in the name of the nation.
“Probably every one of them has a relative at one point or another that died for that,” Guyer said in reference to the flag. “That’s not free speech. Too many people have died for it.”
Osgerby, on the other hand, said the action was an act of defiance against President Donald Trump, who has reportedly put a halt on social media communiques between the public and several federal agencies.
“We are looking at fascism, and I believe that it’s my First Amendment right to protest that in a nonviolent way,” Osgerby said.
Two members of the group -including Osgerby- were charged with a misdemeanor of violating a public burn ordinance. Iowa City Police Sgt. Scott Gaarde said the two were charged because they failed to seek a permit from the fire department to burn the flags, not because of what they were burning. Since December 2014, a federal judge OK’d the burning of US flags, something that had previously been illegal in Iowa.
“It’s not for the content of what they were burning but rather for violating the city ordinance of open burning,” Gaarde said.
According to the Press-Citizen, some protesters involved felt that no form of protest should be criminalized, even if laws were broken.
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