Florida finally recognizes that there’s this First Amendment thinger
Last Monday, James White was dragging a US flag from his bike. At one point, he hopped off the bike and started stomping on the flag. Tampa police showed up at some point, and White then rubbed the flag all over himself, and then tossed it back onto the ground to stomp some more. The cops proceeded to arrest White under a Florida anti-flag desecration law that’s been around since 1919.
White was stuck in jail for several days, until Thursday, when someone finally remembered that the First Amendment kinda, you know, protects White’s actions. The state attorney’s office decided to drop the charges after looking into the incident, primarily since the Supremes ruled, in a 1989 case, that a similar Texas flag desecration law was unconstitutional. And Tampa police officers have been advised to longer enforce the 1919 law.
Of course, not everyone thinks this is the right outcome. Firefighter Pete Paolillo, who saw the whole flag incident go down and apparently tried to wrestle the flag away from White, said: “It seems like everyone takes freedom of speech for granted. … I don’t think that when our forefathers were coming up with the Constitution they thought people would be using freedom of speech to desecrate the United States flag.” He added: “The fabric of the Constitution is being stepped on just like that flag was, and I think that’s pretty sad.”
Great, firefighter Pete, thanks for playing.