Officials reportedly cited two protesters for setting an American flag on fire in the middle of an Iowa City, Iowa, pedestrian mall.
Though the group claimed their politically-charged statement wasn’t anti-veteran, it led to a heated argument and altercation at noon on Thursday.
“When I see the flag, I see racial injustice,” Paul Osgerby, one of two who was cited, told the Iowa-City Press-Citizen. “I see social injustice from Native American genocide to African-American slavery to failing to recognize women as citizens until the 20th century.”
Happening now: a confrontation on the ped mall as people burn an American flag as protest. pic.twitter.com/aPkMdls6oQ
— Stephen GruberMiller (@sgrubermiller) January 26, 2017
Osgerby and Kelli Ebensberger were cited for misdemeanor open burning, according to The Daily Iowan. Ebensberger claimed the group took four flags and doused them in rubbing alcohol before setting them ablaze.
“They were not cited for what they were burning,” Iowa City Police Sgt. Gaarde said, according to The Gazette. “They were cited for open burning and not having an open burning permit issued by the fire department.”
Matt Uhrin, a FedEx worker who was passing by at the time, reportedly saw the display and not only extinguished the fire but took flags from protesters in a chaotic scene.
“Then a FedEx guy came up to us and started yelling at us, using explicit language, telling us to stop,” Ebensberger told the DI.
“He took two of the flags, but when we kept going, he came back and sprayed the protesters. He grabbed my coat and started shoving me,” Osgerby added.
“Probably every one of them has a relative at one point or another that died for that [flag],” onlooker Bob Guyer told the Press-Citizen. “That’s not free speech. Too many people have died for it.”
Sgt. Gaarde said the department will not file additional charges. Osgerby and Ebensberger face up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $625.