Competing demonstrations erupted at Louisiana State University today as protestor Ben Haas failed in an attempt to symbolically burn the American flag in defense of free speech. Earlier in the week an LSU student was arrested for burning an American flag hanging over a campus war memorial on the night that Osama bin Laden was killed. Haas planned a protest in defense of the student’s free speech rights in which he would also burn the American flag. However, a rabid mob of anti-flag burning protestors, chanting “U-S-A!” and “Go to hell, hippie! Go to hell!” gathered and Haas was pulled away by police for his safety. One man, presumably a U.S. military veteran, in basic dress uniform came up to Haas’s face and yelled “my brothers died for you!” Immediately before Haas was pulled away he attempted to read a long statement he prepared, but could only get a few words out, “I initially began this flag burning protest to defend the due process of students and suspected terrorists alike,” before the crowd drowned his speech out with boos and threw water balloons and other objects at him.
Watch a video of the demonstration here:
Here is an audio clip in which you can hear an anti-flag burning protestor yell “Crucify him!” (at 2:5o) as Haas is taken away by police for his safety.
One is reminded of images of anti-integration protestors during the Civil Rights era. The similarities in the rhetoric and the imagery are stark. My friend Brian at Diary of a Walking Butterfly wrote on Facebook that the videos reminded him of the famous quote from the poet and Nobel Laureate Sinclair Lewis that “when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”