Man sues police after flag burning arrest

News

An Illinois man arrested after posting a picture of himself burning a U.S. flag last summer has filed a lawsuit against his arresting officers.

When Bryton Mellott, of Urbana, posted a picture last year on Fourth of July weekend, he never knew it would get so much attention. 

“My intent in posting the picture was to have a discussion with my immediate group of friends and community and family members. It was never really intended to become the semi-national issue,” Mellott said.

The picture went viral and caught the attention of Urbana Police. He says officers asked him to take it down.

They said they were worried about his safety since Mellott and his coworkers were getting death threats.

But Mellott says he never heard any credible threats.

When he didn’t take it down, Mellott was arrested.

“Bryton felt unsafe and uncomfortable in that jail cell, which he should have never been in and I think that’s really the connection that he was expressing himself about issues, including the issues about the treatment of LGBT people in our society and then here he is, as someone from that community, he feels unsafe,” ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said.

Mellott was only there for five hours and charges against him were dropped, but his lawyers say that’s not the point.

They say they need to get that old law off the books.

“There’s no way to sue a state legislature for an unconstitutional law the way the courts have set up the mechanism for constitutional cases. You really have to sue the individuals who were directly responsible for bringing about the violation of the constitutional right. So the fact that the officers are defendants doesn’t represent any sort of ill will towards those officers, but they are legally the proper defendants,” Attorney Rebecca Glenberg said.

Mellott says he didn’t mean to be disrespectful, if that’s how people took it.

But even though it’s been tough, he says he’s glad he started this conversation.

“I have no regrets in doing it because those who reacted negatively to this have since talked to me and I’ve made progress with talking to them about these issues that are near and dear to my heart,” Mellot said.

The city attorney refused to comment on the case because it’s currently in litigation.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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