An Allegheny Township man who had his American flag confiscated by police and now faces charges says he was merely exercising his right to free speech.
Joshuaa S. Brubaker, 37, said he thought the altered American flag, which hung outside his Colonial Drive home last week, was stolen Tuesday and walked across the street to the Allegheny Township police department to file a complaint.
The 3-foot by 5-foot flag was displayed upside down, emblazoned with the white, spray-painted letters "AIM" - a reference to the American Indian Movement, an organization that works to
protect the rights of Native Americans.
According to Allegheny Township police, it is illegal, and on Tuesday officers took it down and confiscated it.
On Wednesday, police filed misdemeanor charges of insults to national or commonwealth flag and desecration of a flag against Brubaker.
Brubaker only learned police had taken the flag after they had him fill out a written complaint. After making the report to one officer, he was asked to wait to speak with Assistant Chief Leo Berg, according to the charges.
Berg wrote in the affidavit of probable cause that two motorists, one on Monday and another on Tuesday, had stopped to complain about the flag, one Berg wrote was "offensive and insulting."
In response, Berg and another officer went to Brubaker's home Tuesday, and failing to make contact with Brubaker, took the flag, folded it up and took it "as evidence."
"There wasn't even any notice stating they
were here," Brubaker
Brubaker explained both he and his wife have Native American ancestry, and the flag was a political statement.
"We're a country in distress," Brubaker said. "There are so many laws and rights being taken away. If you don't use your freedom, you lose it."
Berg, who could not be reached Wednesday for comment, wrote in the affidavit of probable cause, "I explained that I was offended along with others by the disrespectful offensive and insulting desecration and public display of his flag."
Berg also wrote he told Brubaker he was not under arrest and was free to leave but that he would be charged.
"I also advised Joshuaa that I potentially saved him from getting his ass kicked by the first military person that also would have taken offense and have contact with him," Berg wrote in the criminal complaint.
"I apologized," Brubaker said, pointing out he tried talking to Berg on Wednesday and explaining the meaning behind the flag. He said Berg didn't want to hear it.
"He said he didn't care," Brubaker said.
Brubaker has been charged under Chapter 21 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, specifically Section 2102, a third-degree misdemeanor. Police have charged Brubaker with subsection A4, dealing with someone who "publicly or privately mutilates, defaces, defiles, or tramples upon, or casts contempt in any manner upon any flag."
The statute also lists four exceptions to the law, including "any patriotic or political demonstration or decorations," which is exactly what Brubaker said was the reason he hung the altered flag.
"Again, it's a political statement," Brubaker said, adding it wasn't meant to disrespect the country or offend but rather to make a statement about the government.
"This is my property," Brubaker said. "I should have my right to display my political views."
As of Wednesday, Brubaker's preliminary hearing date had not been set.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.