Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s blog jumped on this story earlier today, so I figured I would give it a look. Here’s the announcement of the event from Andrea Gallo at The Daily Reveille, the student newspaper of Louisiana State University (LSU).
Benjamin Haas, communication studies graduate student, will burn an American flag tomorrow at noon on the Parade Ground as part of a peaceful protest, according to Cody Wells, Student Government president.
Wells said Haas is exercising his First Amendment right to burn the flag. The burning comes nearly a week after Isaac Eslava was taken into custody after cutting down and burning the American flag flying over the War Memorial and stealing the University flag.
Wells said Haas went through University procedure to host tomorrow’s protest, and he also went through the procedure to organize a “peaceful assembly in response to recent flag burnings.”
“We’re going to respect his First Amendment right to burn our American flag,” Wells said.
He added he and others will then “exercise our own First Amendment rights” by holding their own ceremony.
Tomorrow at 1 p.m., Wells is organizing a ceremony to say the pledge of allegiance and sing the national anthem. Wells said he has a trumpet player lined up for the ceremony and he hopes he will have cadets there.
Though Wells is the SG president, he said his assembly is not related to or sponsored by SG, but by him “as an individual.”
If you want to know more about Isaac Eslava, I recommend Weasel Zippers’ post. Suffice to say, Benjamin Haas, the student behind today’s event, probably wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction from the student body. Thanks to Aurelius at Pundit Press for the videos.
Does this mean that the crowd managed, through their protest, kept this misfit from burning an American flag? It would certainly seem that way, but this story isn’t over yet. Here’s the transcript of Haas’ speech.
Funny Facebook said that there were only going to be 64 of you. I initially began this flag burning protest to define due process for students and suspected terrorists alike, to call on LSU and universities across the country to defend basic human rights and avoid putting students into the criminal justice system when it can be taken care of internally.
Solidarity means standing with those who are treated as guilty until proven innocent, instead of the other way around. That’s what freedom is, standing with those who express their constitutional rights in ways that may be unpopular, especially the accused and the marginalized no matter the consequences.
In the name of peace, there will be no flag burning today. This country and the flag that flies over it stands for freedom, democracy, love, peace and the ability to question our government.
It turns out the whole event was a stunt, and not a well-planned one at that. Instead of getting his message across, Haas has now become an outcast on campus for his apparent display of disloyalty to the United States of America. He should have realized that with pro-American sentiment being high since the death of Osama bin Laden last week, defending a twit who burned a flag and defaced the LSU War Memorial in front of a group of flag-waving patriots wasn’t a bright idea. Would it have been better if American’s weren’t still celebrating the terrorist leader’s death? Definitely, but even then I have a hard time believing that a generally left-leaning student body would turn out in large numbers to protest the arrest of this criminal. Anti-Americanism only goes so far, and Eslava’s crimes were well-beyond what most Americans, let alone law enforcement, believe is an acceptable form of protest.
Benjamin Haas could have saved himself this humiliation, and everyone else a lot of time and trouble, if his protest wasn’t so public. Spouting tired rhetoric about due process is one thing, but it takes a real desperate attention seeker to deliberately inflame passions to get a point across. Twit…
UPDATE: Hot Air’s Allahpundit is now weighing in on this story. Aside from angry chants, students protesting Benjamin Haas’ event were throwing water balloons at him and were becoming pretty aggressive. I have no doubt that Haas feared for his safety, but, once again, what did he expect? His fake flag burning came shortly after bin Laden’s death, and with patriotic feelings running high across the country, the reaction to his apparent display of disloyalty to the United States of America would be extreme harsh.
What does that say about free speech in America? Not much. I think Allahpundit has this wrong. It’s a mistake to believe that a constitutionally guaranteed right would allow someone to say or do something offensive, but not allow someone else to be offended and protest that offensive statement or action. Unlike Michelle Malkin and others who’s events are interrupted by angry protesters who prevent them speaking, Haas had police protection and was able to deliver his speech, despite the loud chants of protesters. Those protesting his event might have crossed the line by throwing water balloons, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have the right to be at his event and protest.
Benjamin Haas isn’t a martyr for free speech. He’s just an attention seeker who’s poorly planned stunt backfired. Pathetic…