US Law

Democracy for the Dissidents: The Legality of Flag Burning

April 10, 2017 Fiona Xin 0

The 1st Amendment is one of the staples of a functioning, free democracy. Yet, under the current administration, we have seen multiple attempts to undermine the freedoms of speech, expression, press, and religion enshrined in the 1st Amendment. In November 2016, a tweet by then-President-Elect Donald Trump attacking flag burners sparked controversy related to the tension between the freedom of speech and the legality of flag desecration. A quick review of the history of flag desecration in American history clearly illustrates the complex and contentious nature of the topic. Throughout the Vietnam war, antiwar activists often desecrated the American flag as a form of expressive, social protest. The ambiguity surrounding whether such an act was protected by the 1st Amendment lasted three decades; in the meanwhile, law enforcement and the lower courts held much of the discretionary power regarding each of the cases. The constitutional protection of flag desecration was finally addressed by […]