The woman, an 18-year old, identified by police by her former name Ryan Segin, was arrested for “attempting to set a thin blue line American Flag on fire ” on June 10 at 12:10 p.m., according to a police report.
But the flag wasn’t actually an American flag; it was a Thin Blue Line flag.
Police tackled Segin before slapping her with several charges for exercising her First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
The incident occurred in Philadelphia’s “Gayborhood” during the Philadelphia Pride Parade.
Segin never actually started a fire, but police observed her with lighter fluid and say she was about to burn a Thin Blue line flag during the parade.
The Thin Blue Line flag consists of an American flag design with a thin blue stripe through the middle, which typically represents the secret code of silence among cops, which they refer to as Thin Blue Line, although most police don’t admit that publicly, and claim the blue line honors officers killed on-duty.
Segin, who was jailed on a $5,000 bail before supporters posted her bail, was charged with risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person and attempted arson.
A photographer for WHYY News captured photos of Philly police officer tackling Segin and posted them to Twitter.
Nearly 30 years ago in United States v. Eichman, the Supreme Court ruled burning a flag is Constitutionally protected free speech.
However, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania Mary Catherine Roper says while flag burning is protected free speech, police can decide to arrest a person if they think their actions endanger people.
“Burning something in the middle of the crowd, she can be charged with endangering,” Roper told NJ.com.
“The First Amendment doesn’t protect her if she’s creating a dangerous situation.”
Flag burnings happen frequently at crowded protests, Roper said, because the point is for it to be seen.
The issue about whether or not Segin endangered others will be up to the courts to decide.
But some wonder if Segin was arrested for endangering others or for her perceived disrespect to the Thin Blue Line.