Man who burned flag celebrates $15K wrongful arrest settlement by burning another flag

Here’s a nice, petty story to start your weekend: Bryton Mellott of Urbana, Illinois, who was arrested last summer by the Urbana Police Department after posting a picture of himself burning the American flag to Facebook, celebrated his $15,000 settlement against the department Monday by posting another picture of himself burning the American flag to Facebook.

Mellot, 22, was arrested July 4, 2016, after posting the picture the day before along with the hashtag #youbetterburnthatflag. Before the post was eventually deleted it was shared thousands of times.

“I am not proud to be an American,” Mellot wrote in his post. “In this moment, being proud of my country is to ignore the atrocities committed against people of color, people living in poverty, people who identify as women and against my own queer community on a daily basis.”

Urbana police arrested Mellot for violating Illinois’ flag desecration law, and he spent five hours in the Champaign County jail before prosecutors dropped the case against him citing a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that made flag-burning protected speech and nullified the state law. Mellot wasn’t satisfied, and decided to make and example of the department and sued it with the help of the ACLU for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“It’s very clear that this law is unconstitutional and we want to make sure that in the future, Illinois law enforcement officers know that they cannot arrest people under this statute,” ACLU attorney Rebecca Glenberg said at a press conference this January.

This week, Mellot settled with the department and was awarded $15,000 as well as $20,000 in legal fees. He celebrated in the most extra and appropriate way imaginable: by posting another picture of himself burning the flag.

[photo: Bryton Mellott]