July 5, 2016 5:41 pm -

Flag burning is considered free speech, and so a man arrested July 4 won’t be charged.

By Monday night, Bryton Mellott’s booking mug and the text of his posting — which began with “I am not proud to be an American” and closed with “#ArrestMe” — had been seen by thousands and commented on by hundreds of people on social media.

Dozens of websites shared the details of the posting, from mainstream ones like to others, like, that ridiculed the Wal-Mart employee.

It was when some of the most threatening comments started mentioning Mellott’s employer that authorities say they decided to take action.

People are free to make inflammatory comments that put themselves at risk, Urbana Sgt. Andrew Charles said Monday, but when they put others at risk who have no say, it becomes a law enforcement matter.

The threatening tone of much of the feedback online — which Urbana police first learned about after getting multiple calls as early as 7 a.m. Monday — is what led them to arrest Mellott under an Illinois state statute concerning flag desecration, Charles told The News-Gazette.

Later Monday in a statement, Urbana police said “the volume of responses and specificity of threat against his place of employment (a location where an act of violence would likely cause harm to others), prompted police involvement in this case.”

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.