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ACLU: Man police say desecrated flag did nothing wrong

Updated: Thursday, May 15 2014, 06:31 PM EDT

By: Maria Miller

ALLEGHENY TOWNSHIP, Pa -- A Blair County man says his rights were infringed upon after standing up for his beliefs through an American flag only to have it taken down by police.
Police told 6 News it's what that man did to the flag that they found extremely offensive. They said they even had a few complaints so they took it down and charged him. Pictures given to 6 News show the flag hanging upside down, with the word "AIM" sprayed across the front.
"If we can't express ourselves freely and not worry about repercussions from that, what's the point of having a flag," asked Joshua Brubaker.
Brubaker said he was only standing up for his American Indian heritage that he claims is being taken away in parts of the Midwest. He said what he did to the flag wasn't meant to offend anyone, only to express his beliefs. And now the American Civil Liberties Union tells 6 News he did nothing wrong.
"I was offended by it when I first saw it. I had an individual stop here at the station, a female, who was in the military and she was very offended by it," said Assistant Chief L.J. Berg of the Allegheny Township Police Department. "I removed it from the building, folded it properly and seized it as evidence."
"It's just now right," Brubaker said. "Simply because I express myself in a way that somebody else doesn't like or agree with, doesn't mean I should be persecuted for having beliefs."
And Brubaker said he has proof he shouldn't have been charged.
"In the paperwork (police) gave me stating what laws I broke, it clearly says exemptions are for political use," Brubaker said.
The ACLU told 6 News Thursday evening that it agrees with Brubaker. Legal director, Vic Walczak said, "This is clearly political expression. It does not give (the police) license to run over our First Amendment just because it offended them. Previous court decisions have ruled these laws unconstitutional."
"I feel as though the officer who spoke to me was so irate and when I tried to tell him that I was using it to stand for a sign of our country being in distress, he yelled at me that our country is not in distress," Brubaker said. "I just don't see how as a police officer you can get personal about things."
But Allegheny Township police, whose station is just across the street from Brubaker's house, said both the department and some residents found the display extremely offensive and they won't stand for it in their community.

ACLU: Man police say desecrated flag did nothing wrong

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