A man thought he could just tear down an American flag as a form of free speech. When he couldn’t rip it off, however, he took out a lighter and set it on fire. Little did he know, he was making the biggest mistake of his life.
Andrew Rosas was walking through a neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia when something he didn’t like caught his attention. Seeing an American flag hanging from a pole mounted on someone’s front porch was just too much for Rosas to bear, so the 26-year-old attempted to rip it down. When that didn’t work, he took a lighter to the flag and walked away, likely thinking he was protected under the First Amendment.
Unfortunately for Rosas, he was mistaken. When James Tanner, the homeowner, woke the next morning to see what had happened to his personal property, he wasn’t just going to let it go. Instead, Tanner quickly checked his security camera footage, WHNT reported. On the video footage, he saw a clear image of the guilty party’s face. And, it wasn’t long before Rosas was all over the news and the internet. But, that wasn’t the worst of the firebug’s worries.
Getting caught on camera during his fit of anti-patriotism wasn’t the only mistake Rosas made. In fact, his impromptu protest landed him in jail. As the video of him attempting to pull down the flag, then lighting it on fire, spread across the internet, he realized he wasn’t going to get away with his spontaneous act of rebellion. Left with no other choice, Rosas surrendered to the police. He was quickly arrested and charged with arson, as authorities taught him some tough lessons about the law.
First, burning a flag with malice is against the law in Virginia and can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge. But, that’s not all. As Rosas soon found out, while burning an American flag is covered under the First Amendment as free speech in certain circumstances, it doesn’t give you the right to burn someone else’s flag. That’s destruction of private property. What’s more, if you try to burn it when it’s hanging on someone’s front porch, it could also be considered arson.
To Andrew Rosas’ shock, he could actually face a felony for what he had done. As Todd Stone, a legal analyst for CBS 6, explained, the fact that the flag was burned while attached to the house could bring serious legal troubles to the vandal. Making matters worse, the fire was set at night while innocent people slept inside. “That makes it a much more serious offense because it could catch the house on fire and cause risk to the people inside,” Stone said.
Homeowner James Tanner agrees and was “very concerned” that the fire could have spread to his home while his family slept, risking their lives. “This is vandalism, and you have somebody that totally disregards the safety of the people around there,” he said, adding that the act also totally disregards what the flag represents. Regardless of how you feel about someone’s right to protest, Tanner is right. If you are going to burn something, it better be your own property. Your actions shouldn’t put the lives of others at risk.
According to Tanner, the flag was made of synthetic materials, so luckily, it just melted. That didn’t make the incident any less troubling to neighbors, who could look at the charred flagpole still attached to the house as a reminder of what could have happened. “The whole front porch could have caught on fire. Now, knowing it was one of my neighbors, my house could have caught on fire. So it could have been a really bad situation,” neighbor Joseph Lawson said. “You got to know how controversial that is, whether he’s trying to make a protest or not.”
Indeed, anyone with common sense knows it’s a dangerous move to set fire to anything attached to a home while the occupants are asleep inside. What’s worse, Rosas walked away before knowing the result of his actions. Had the entire house went up in flames, no one might have known until it was too late for the family. This isn’t just utter stupidity. It’s a total disregard for the safety of others simply because they have a different outlook on something. That’s not only intolerant, it’s shameful.