Russell Pearce, Flag-Desecrator and Lawbreaker?

jt&pearce222.jpg
Talk about no class. At least JT wore a suit, though he's sportin' an Old Glory tie...

I feel a little like the Arizona Republic's Clay Thompson in discussing this issue, raised via e-mail by someone involved in the effort to recall state Senate President Russell Pearce. But here goes.

Some have suggested that Pearce, who proclaims himself to be a great patriot, has been in violation of federal code 4 U.S.C. § 8 for wearing a United States flag shirt in public on more than one occasion.

The most infamous of these was during an anti-immigrant wing-ding at the state Capitol in 2008, when I witnessed him working the crowd with his then bosom companion J.T. Ready, Arizona's best known neo-Nazi. I here include one of the photos of Pearce that I snapped in his offending garb as "people's exhibit: A."

Federal law addresses the display of the flag, but is a little vague when it comes to the use of flag images as clothing. The statute above states, in part, that,

"The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general."

The statute also prohibits the use of the flag as "a costume or athletic uniform," though "a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations." A lapel flag pin is OK, as long as it's on the left lapel near the heart.

Additionally, the law declares that, "No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America," and that, "The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. "

So has Pearce disrespected the flag he proclaims to love by making a classic redneck fashion statement and using a tacky version of Old Glory to cover his belly?

Well, even if he has, there's no criminal or civil penalty associated with this statute. Otherwise, we'd have to arrest Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, Lady Ga Ga, and numerous other celebrities and ordinary folk for running afoul of federal code.

Some guidance can be found in a 2008 Congressional Research Service report, which addresses the issue of the flag as clothing:

"While wearing the colors may be in poor taste and offensive to many, it is important to remember that the Flag Code is intended as a guide to be followed on a purely voluntary basis to insure proper respect for the flag. It is, at least,questionable whether statutes placing civil or criminal penalties on the wearing of clothing bearing or resembling a flag could be constitutionally enforced in light of Supreme Court decisions in the area of flag desecration."

As alluded to in this quote, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled more than once that flag burning and other forms of its desecration are protected as symbolic speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This pretty much renders the whole debate moot. 

I suppose one could argue that unless Pearce's shirt was made from an actual American flag, he would not be in violation of the law. But then you get into the whole idea of the flag as a concept versus a specific thing in and of itself. Hairsplitting, at best.

On second thought, maybe we should arrest flag desecrators such as the Muttonhead from Mesa. After all, the law is the law. Sure, it's a minor violation of federal code. But then, so is illegal immigration.

Lastly, I should note that the Arizona state criminal code includes 13-3703, "Abuse of venerated objects," of which a flag (any flag, apparently), would be one. It's a class 2 misdemeanor and could result in four months in the slammer or a $750 fine. 

Of course, federal law and attendant court precedents trump state law, generally, but isn't Pearce all about states rights?

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106 comments
ExpertShot
ExpertShot

Hey, another post of mine that generated an argument!  I've actually posted numerous time about the abuse of our flag by all sorts of hypocritical right-wingers - Flags on cars, Flag banners at car dealerships, Flag ties, The use of more than one flag per location - it's all just as bad or worse than burning a flag.  I think it's worse because at least a person is saying something by burning a flag in protest - these bozos are so ignorant that they don't even know what they're doing - just ignorant redneck pukes.  I'm a member of a local veterans post that prides itself in trying to honor the flag and the constitution it represents. 

From all the veterans out there - Pearce is a puke for wearing that shirt and he should apologize. 

BTW - the other post was about all the radioactivity generated by uranium mining around the grand canyon and how the Fuksu nuclear disaster fallout pales in comparison with the dose we got when that tailings pond broke and allowed all that rad-waste into our Colorado River drinking water. 

I must be a pretty good shot!

Nankin
Nankin

Here is some background on the issue of wearing a United States flag shirt in public and if that is flag desecration according to the federal code U.S.C. Section 8. In 1968 Abbie Hoffman wore a "flag shirt" when he testified before a U.S. Congressional Committee.  He was arrested, tried, and found guilty.  An appeal (44F.2d 226: Abbie Hoffman, Appelant v. United States of America, Appellee) was filed and the conviction was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In addition, in 2005 while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard Myers rode a motorcycle during the Rolling Thunder Rally wearing a United States flag shirt.  While I am about as far from being a supporter of Russell Pearce as you can get; I think that the issue of his wearing a flag shirt in public is not only legal, but a distraction from the serious issues surrounding him.

chicagonut
chicagonut

Anti-"immigrant" wing-ding???????????

Hock
Hock

Whenever I see a person wearing a clothing designed like our flag, I think "false patriot."

Let him wear it...it exposes him for the false patriot he is.

Mikey1969
Mikey1969

Wow, slow news day for the New Times? Pearce is an ass, and I can't wait to see him go...

But...

"I suppose one could argue that unless Pearce's shirt was made from an actual American flag, he would not be in violation of the law."

And this is exactly the point... This was discussed in the post 9/11 boom of everyone trying to out-partiot the neighbors by seeing who could have more fucking flags on their car... It's been considered for years that there is a difference between a flag(i.e. a usually rectangular device with specific colors and emblems on it in a very precise order, number and ratio), and a 'representation' of the flag. Otherwise, we would have had to go after every jackass who had a faded decal on their car, or after they didn't take the flag on their car window down when it started to tear. What about those people who had the decal on their car(or the flag in their window) and didn't light it at night, or bring them inside when the weather got bad, both items in the Flag Code? What about when they DO get old and faded, do we prosecute these people for throwing them in the trash and not disposing of them properly? The Boy Scouts will do it for you, all by the book, according to the Flag Code.

Bottom line is that Pearce's clothes aren't a desecrated flag, they are just a representation of the flag in clothing form, and it's no more law breaking than Suzy Patriot flying that stupid-ass flag from every available window of her rice burner for all winter in 2001, or until she forgot she was patriotic and threw them in the trash one day.

Real Democracy Now!
Real Democracy Now!

Throw out Pearce, join the revolution. Don't let these thugs like JT Ready and Russell Pearce come to represent what Arizona is.

jtready
jtready

Meanwhile Pearce finds an American eagle "inappropriate". Or did it really have Swastika? Hmmm...

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

["Of course, federal law and attendant court precedents trump state law, generally, but isn't Pearce all about states rights?"]

No, Mr. Lemons. I beg to differ. Pearce is only about what pearce considers his rights and his laws.

Ross
Ross

Only a Nazi sympathizer would write about Pearce's shirt without mentioning Ready's tie.

Gerry_C
Gerry_C

Well, the flag shirt looks better on him than flag decorated underwear would be.

Chem Trail Karen
Chem Trail Karen

Fuck you bird. Russell Pearce is a true Patriot. He wears the flag to cover up a tattoo JT Ready forced him to get back in the 60's. Get your facts right for a fucking change you worthless fuck. You and the rest of the filthy recall Cartel can kiss my beautiful white American Ass. 

Layal Rabat
Layal Rabat

On June 3rd, after a friend made the suggestion, as an admin on the People Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio page, I posted a link to Pearce's picture and requested people's opinions regarding the matter. Here is the discussion that occurred: http://goo.gl/v9Nd9

Rob
Rob

I dislike Pearce as much as anyone else, but this is out there.

Would those who advocate his arrest then push for an arrest warrant for Bono?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Real Democracy Now!
Real Democracy Now!

Go fuck yourself scum, come back to PHX we will run you fucks out once again.

Bobby
Bobby

Truly funny. Not that I agree with the message.

US War Veteran
US War Veteran

I swear, if I ever see a picture of this motherfucker wearing a US Flag underwear I will shot him myself, his fucking shit stains on my flag will be the last thing this imbecile ever does.

Mistalee
Mistalee

Your fat white middle-aged adipose ass has more cottage cheese than the Shamrock Dairy. 

Bobby
Bobby

Can I get in on it?

Not Me
Not Me

Given the fact that his shirt is not made from an actual American flag then no laws or codes have been broken.

Not Me
Not Me

Layal....If you're a mod for that group then you are a disgrace to this country! That page is full of racist using racist comments to describe someone they call a racist.

Bobby
Bobby

No, because they so irrationally hate Mr. Pearce, as they hate White people in general, that they can't even see straight.

Mistalee
Mistalee

As if that fat bastard could run. 

Not Me
Not Me

Given the fact that his shirt is not made from an actual American flag then no laws or codes have been broken.

Bobby
Bobby

Now now, Veteran.

Mistalee
Mistalee

I'll buy you the bullet. 

Jason
Jason

Now now Mistalee, let's not insult the Shamrock Dairy by comparing it to Bobby's and/or Chem Trail Karen's cottage-cheese laden ass. That's just hurting the Shamrock Dairy.

Bobby
Bobby

Yeah, cottage cheese lover, but you know your'e jealous over it

Rob
Rob

Look dumbshit....I'm white.  And, like I wrote above...I dislike Pearce as much as anyone else and find this foolish.  And, as Lemons wrote, this is an issue that has been raised by SOME....not all. 

Goddamn you're really a stupid ass, aren't you?

Do you work for MCSO.  That's not a joke, I'm serious.

Rob
Rob

Then you understand exactly where I'd value your respect. At least we understand that between us.

Bobby
Bobby

The leeches probably wouldn't even bother with you.

Rob
Rob

I challenge you to find any statement by me even mentioning Raul Grijalva or Isabel Garcia.  You can't idiot because I've not made any.

Unlike you, my Aryan loving brother, I don't believe any skin color is a factor in determining respect.  But thanks for letting us know what matters to you....Mr Imnotaracistandnevermaderacistcomments.

As for earning respect from you.....let me worry about getting the respect of a leech at the bottom of the Phoenix Sewage treatment plant...then I'll worry about getting your respect.

Bobby
Bobby

I don't give a damn if your'e white. Aren't you always making comments about great Raul Grijalva is, about Isable Garcia's integrity, etc. Sure you are. You support all of this, so I don't give a rats ass that your'e white. You would think that that entitles you to respect from others . WRONG. You'll get my respect, personally when you earn it.

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