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EXCLUSIVE: Authorities Investigate Flag Burnings

by ARLnow.com June 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm 3,945 39 Comments

Police and the Arlington Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating a series of flag burnings in the Williamsburg and East Falls Church neighborhoods of North Arlington.

A total of 27 decorative flags were burned overnight on a quiet couple of blocks between Quantico Street and Sycamore Street, near Bishop O’Connell High School and Tuckahoe Elementary, according to fire department spokesman Lt. Gregg Karl. Neighbors say the plastic flags were recently placed in yards by the Boy Scouts, an annual Flag Day tradition.

Investigators believe whoever burned the flags did so just before 5:30 a.m. The fires caused the plastic flags to melt onto plants, yards and walkways. No word on a motive, but one neighbor on 27th Street theorized that the vandal or vandals were trying to send a message.

“There are some people who object to the flags for political reasons,” she said. “There are ways to protest if you don’t believe in something, but destructive protests like this do not accomplish goals. It does not accomplish anything.”

The resident acknowledged, however, that the flag burnings could also be a random act of “pure vandalism,” adding that said she could not remember anything like this happening in the 11 years she has lived in the neighborhood.

“It’s dangerous,” she said. “It could have caused a real fire.”

Anyone with information about the burnings is asked to call Deputy Fire Marshal Paul Frank at 703-228-4644. More photos, after the jump.

Hat tip to Colleen Creighton


  • TGEoA

    Probably kids lit one and thought it looked cool, so they burned a few more.

    • Burger

      What high schoolers are up at 5:30 AM.

      • PhilL

        I had a Washington Post route in high school and I was up between 4:30 and 5:00, depending on the day of the week. Tuesday’s paper was always the smallest, Thursday and Friday had inserts, etc….

        • Burger

          True. But you were working. Not many juvenile deliquents are up at 5:30 to do something like that.

          now, I agree it is more likely high schoolers but it makes me wonder where their parents are.

          • doodly

            In my town, the paper boys were the juvenile delinquents.

  • G Clifford Prout

    Sounds to me like a High School prank to me. Need Zero Tolerance on flag burning. There will be consequences.

  • Andy

    Stuff like this always coincides with the end of the school year.

  • brendan

    i highly doubt there was anything political about this… probably just some bored teenagers who like fire and causing a fuss.

  • doodly

    Much like the bored teenagers posting all over the dating thread.

  • Lou

    There have been a few unsettling vandalism acts in that neighborhood recently. Side mirrors being pried off, peanut butter on windshields, etc.

  • jjones

    I feel bad for anyone I catch burning the flag in my front yard.

  • Chris

    Obviously it was stray fire from the inferno that some call the “Westover Beer Garden,” likely inflamed to new heights by dancing.

    • chickenswantbeer

      +1

  • SoCo Resident

    Maybe someone doesn’t like the Boy Scouts.

  • Mickey

    I fought for that flag…..33 bullet wounds and schrapnel wounds. I will lie in wait and catch one just to have the satisfaction of breaking their hands….beware

    • John Fontain

      Then you should be proud of the fact that we have the freedom in this country to burn our own flag* without consequence, as personally reprehensible as you may find that act to be.

      *To be clear, it’s wrong to burn a US flag belonging to someone else (i.e., destroying someone else’s property).

      • ArlForester

        No, they don’t have to ever be proud that people are dumb enough to burn the flag that represents the place that allows them to burn the flag. Only idiots who have never done anything for this country would ever think that way. Maybe they have to live with the fact that the liberal courts think burning something is free speech but people don’t ever have to be okay with it.

        • doodly

          People have a right to be idiots.

          And of course burning something can be speech. What makes you angry about it? What the act of burning it says? Or the fact that it could start a forest fire?

          • Mickey

            Those that have not served nor given their own for this country will never have a true understanding of the symbol of our flag. You have the right to protest, to burn it (the courts allow it), but I also will lie in wait for your action and you will be held accountable…….make my day, axxh..e

          • Josh S

            Ah yes, the brave internet comment thread poster – keeping our land safe from sixteen year old pranksters. Go get ’em, tiger! Don’t forget the portable nitrous canister – I hear it enhances the “experience.”

          • doodly

            Actually, it seems those who serve often seem to get the real meaning of the flag drilled out of their heads.

          • JS

            doodly…did you serve?

          • JS

            you are so above all of this…so advanced.

      • ArlForester

        No, he shouldn’t be proud that some court decided to stretch the limits of free speech to include public arson and endangerment. People who burn flags only want to piss off people who love it. I will never understand the hypocrisy behind burning the flag that represents the country that says you can do it AND not get a beating for it.

        • John Fontain

          “public arson and endangerment”

          To be clear, I’m not defending our supporting arson or destruction of others property. The fact that the flags in this neighborhood were burned is reprehensible.

          Also, I do not believe people SHOULD burn the American flag. I believe it to be unnecessarily offensive to many who have served our armed forces. It’s disrespectful in general.

          That said, I believe the fact that we can burn an American flag (one that is our own property) without fear of punishment is perhaps one of the clearest examples of what that flag represents (personal liberty).

          To suggest that one should “get a beating for it” is to not truly respect what the flag stands for. And to me, not supporting personal liberty is more disrepectful to the flag than the act of burning the flag itself.

        • doodly

          What a load. The laws against flag burning that were struck down had nothing to do with arson or public safety. They were about the symbolism.

        • yequalsy

          What chaps my hide way more than the (practically non-existent) flag burners are all the fauxPatriots out there who abuse the flag in numerous ways. First are those who seem to the think the flag is an appropriate article of clothing, be it shirt, bikini, or underwear. When I was growing up dressing like that would have gotten you an ass-kicking. Now it’s Tea Party fashion de rigueur. And then there’s the people who put flags on their cars only to leave them flapping in the wind and the rain and the snow until they’re faded and tattered into rags. Then there’s the people who pat themselves on the back for flying the flag on their flag pole only to leave it there day and night, despite the weather, until it too is faded and torn. Then there are the scum who fly a super-sized flag not to celebrate our freedom but to try to get us to buy a new car. The flag is a SYMBOL not the substance. But it is an important symbol of our freedom and our sacrifices. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s not an advertising tool. And it sure as hell doesn’t belong to any political party or viewpoint.

    • doodly

      You didn’t fight for a flag, you fought for what it represents.

      One of the things it represents is the freedom of people to express any ideas they want to.

    • Hendrik A. Jasper

      Another Vet the the VA has let down. Sounds like Mickey could use some counseling. Mickey, I salute your service and hope the VA can help you get well.

  • JohnW

    At least they were American-made flags!

  • BoredHouseWife

    sounds like bored kids
    or
    terrorists, boo!

  • HonestBroker

    Bill Hicks says: “The flag! The flag! They said we can burn the flag! They didn’t say that, they said if a guy burns a flag, he probably doesn’t have to go to jail… for a [bleep’ing] year. People going… “Hey buddy, let me tell you something… my daddy died for that flag.” Really? I bought mine, you know they sell them in K-mart, three bucks. “He died in the Korean war for that flag.” Well what a coincidence, mine was made in Korea. He didn’t die for a [bleep] flag, it’s just a piece of cloth, he died for what the flag represents and that the freedom to burn the [bleep] flag…”

  • SoCo Resident

    As long I live, I will never understand this flag worship thing. Same for a whole bunch of holy objects.

    • ArlForester

      It’s not worship, it is respect. I guess you fully understand the people who burn it though…..

      • doodly

        Then respect the right of others not to respect it if they choose not to. Respect the actual values behind the flag and not just the piece of cloth, in other words.

  • I think the writer made it sound like the flag burnings were closer to the two schools than they actually were. Quantico is east of Sycamore Street, a major thoroughfare, while the schools are west of Sycamore. I don’t think the location of the schools has anything to do with this incident.

  • Teacher

    like previous comments, i believe it was bored teenagers pulling a stupid prank.. i hope they are caught

    • Josh S

      I also believe it was teenagers pulling a prank. To characterize them as bored seems not quite right – I think impulsive is better. However, I hope they aren’t caught. What a waste of resources that would be – tracking down the evil kids who burned a bunch of plastic flags that were placed, unasked for, in people’s lawns by Boy Scouts only to be thrown in the trash (discretely, of course) the next day.
      Talk about hypocrisy – “oh, we’re more patriotic than thou because we’re all up in arms about the destruction of disposable flags placed on our property without us lifting a finger and which we planned on destroying ourselves anyway by throwing in the trash along with the rest of our disposable waste.”
      Right.

  • EPinBC

    I agree that it is probably an end-of-year prank by some high school kids. Alexandria had a police cruiser torched at TC Williams Wednesday morning (though I’d call that a bit more than a prank).

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