Vet’s flag stolen by overreaching police

A U.S. flag being flown upside down as a protest in a northern Wisconsin village was seized by police before a Fourth of July parade and the businessman who flew it, who happened to be an Iraq war veteran, is now claiming police officers trespassed and stole his property:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is considering legal action against the Village of Crivitz for violating Vito Congine Jr.’s First Amendment rights, Executive Director Chris Ahmuty said.

“It is not often that you see something this blatant,” Ahmuty said. “The fact that police on Independence Day of all days would come onto private property without permission and shut down his protest is very disturbing.”

In mid-June, Congine, 46, began flying the flag upside down – an accepted way to signal distress – outside the restaurant he wants to open in Crivitz, a village of about 1,000 people some 65 miles north of Green Bay.

He said his distress is likely bankruptcy because the village board refused to grant him a liquor license after he spent nearly $200,000 to buy and remodel a downtown building for an Italian supper club.

Congine’s upside-down-flag represents distress to him; to others in town, like the village president, it represents disrespect of the flag – especially when a community 20 miles away was mourning the death of a 19-year-old soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Just hours before a Fourth of July parade, four police officers went to Congine’s property and removed the flag under the advice of Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey.

A day after the parade, police returned the flag and the man’s protest over a liquor license continued. Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula said it was not illegal to fly the flag upside down but people were upset and it was the Fourth of July. “It is illegal to cause a disruption,” he said. “There were a lot of vets at that parade. You know how veterans react when they see that.” The Crivitz Village President, John Deschane, said removing the flag was the right thing to do, citing the fact that many in Crivitz believe it’s disrespectful to fly the flag upside down. “Don’t disrespect the flag,” Deschane said. “If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it.” Vito Congine said he intends to keep flying the flag upside down, despite whatever opposition he might face.

While I understand the strong feelings evoked by demonstrations such as flying the U.S. flag upside down or burning the U.S. flag, such demonstrations are perfectly legal and Constitutionally-protected forms of speech. Sometimes we might not agree with what’s being expressed, but there’s a reason we have the First Amendment. If Vito Congine wants to fly his U.S. flag upside down on his property, then he should be able to do so, free from the interference of overreaching law enforcement officials.


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15 thoughts on “Vet’s flag stolen by overreaching police

  1. I can think of nothing more disrespectful to Old Glory than trampling on the liberties it represents while pretending to protect and respect it.

  2. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin should follow through with legal action! When shouldnt our 1st admendment rights be protected? Ignorant people such as John Deschane claims it to be disrepecting the flag….Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula claims flying the flag upside down caused a 4th of July disruption (yea right)… County District Attorney Allen Brey sent police officers to treaspass,steal private property, deprive Mr. Corgine of his 1st admendment rights, DEPRIVE YOU WISCONSIN PEOPLE of your 1st admendment rights, anyone else who dont know that flying the American flag upside down meens DISTRESS! Theres alot of things in this world to be distressed about. WE THE PEOPLE……come on folks learn something before you react with stupidity.

  3. Several years ago a case was brought before the courts wherein, a man burned the falg in excercise of his 1st amendment.
    Seeing the act, another man punched the 1st man in the face and bloodied his nose.
    The man who punched the other was arrested, and went to trial.
    The courts determined that, when the man burned the flag, he was liable for enciting an emotional reaction and that getting punched in the face was also a protected 1st amendment right of the person who threw the punch in response to flag burning.
    Sort of a physics lesson here, a political equal and opposite reaction?
    Moral lesson?
    If you want to do provocative things , you can expect provocative results?
    This upside flag thing some of these people are on about especially on the 4th?
    Same deal, some people dont like it, anyone who decides to do it and doesnt think anyone elses opinion matters is not being very thoughtfull about their actions.

  4. Call it his right to protest or whatever you like. Vito Congine Jr. is still a piece of crap for flying the flag upside down. Especially on the Fourth of July.

    1. Whether he’s a “piece of crap” or not, did his actions justify the response by police? I say absolutely not.

  5. Received an e-mail from a Marine Vietnam combat veteran who knows a bit more about the flag and the Constitution than this idiot “Lawrence” above.
    To: Allen Brey

    District Attorney
    Marinette County
    Marinette, WI 54143

    Mr. Brey

    In a number of nationwide protests, veterans groups have adopted the “distress flag” as an appropriate representation of a variety of problems.

    These groups include the American Legion, Gathering of Eagles, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Operation Fire for Effect, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and others.

    Some of the issues being protested are in Wisconsin and involve prosecution of disabled veterans by an “overactive” DVA Inspector General.

    If I might suggest, please contact me for clarification on this issue if sensitivity to the feelings of veterans your reason for taking a legal position inconsistent, perhaps inadvertently, with those of veterans.

    Sometimes modes of expression change. In this case, the upside down flag has been adopted and will become more and more common.

    thank you,

    Gordon P. Duff
    Editorial Board
    USMC Vietnam 1969/70
    100% Combat Disabled Veteran

  6. Free speech except when I don’t like it… seems to be the way this country operates… they hypocrisy is so bad that America is in total denial, but not the rest of the world. We condemn the Afghans for forcing(?) women to cover themselves (most choose to for cultural reasons) yet we say NOTHING to the Saudi’s who not only FORCE women to cover themselves, but the only country that women CAN’T VOTE, women also can’t drive (how stupid is that) and women can’t travel without husbands permission… so DON’T tell me about how horrible women have it in other countries when we IGNORE the country that gave us the 9/11 hijackers (Saudi Arabia)..

  7. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights…..are all symbols of liberty.

    The upside down U.S. flag is an official signal of distress. It is not meant to be, and is not officially recognized as any type of disrespect when so displayed for the right reasons. To the contrary, here is the relevant part of the US Code of Laws regarding how to fly the flag when in distress:

    Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10
    As amended by P.L. 344, 94th Congress
    Approved July 7, 1976

    § 176. Respect for flag: No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

  8. These elected officials are way off the reservation. It is up to the Police to keep the peace, not up to the police and local governments to dictate what is ok to say and what is not ok to say.

    You let these folks take an inch today, guess how much they’ll take tomorrow if no one challenges them. Though a bit extreme compared to this…look at Germany before WW2. Hitler went and did whatever he wanted…no one said anything. Then one day folks looked around and found they had lost all their rights, self respect and dignity.

    Everything Vito did was Constitutional and well within his rights. What the local yokels did was not only illegal it was in bad form. Doubt Vito will ever get his liquor license now, but that is besides the point. The pencil pushing narrow minded bureaucrats in the local and county governments should all be voted out of office.

    Oh and by the way, anyone ever been to Crivitz? I have….all these vets were angry over the flag being upside down…right all 12 of them from a town that has maybe 1000 total residents…hardly enough to make up a chain gang! What a joke! Who are these clowns fooling? Someone got upset in a position of power and abused their position and in the process broke the law. Vito has a case and you know what, all this time, energy and money could have been put to far greater use than what the elected officials will undoubtedly face should the ACLU sue, which they very much should and inflict as much political damage to these schmucks as possible.

  9. “…You know how veterans react when they see that.” – Really? What the heck kind of “Barney Fife” do they have in Marinette? As a vet I LOVE seeing folks express themselves. Is this town for real? I hope this town gets is ass sued off, I hope ol Barney has to lick this guys boots, and the DA and village idiot.. I mean president are forced to raise that upside down flag and salute it before they issue their court ordered apology.
    Don’t worry how a veteran will react to an upside down flag, worry about about how we’ll react to the gov preventing ANYONE’S freedom of speech!
    (Hmmm, maybe THAT’s why the ‘Bama administration considers vets potential terrorists… because we ain’t gonna stand by when crap like this happens)

  10. I think My local government didnt get their pockets lined…..They tried to prohibit buying, transporting or shooting off fireworks….a longtime tradition for the 4th and New Years in Comal County Texas. Would have been nice if they implemented a safe location, Crains Mill Park? Hmmmmm I shudder to think how they would re-act to a U.S. Flag flown in distress.

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