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Protesters Burn American Flag In Fort Greene Park; Opponents Rush In

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A group made good on a plan to burn at least one American flag during a protest in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn Wednesday night.

But dozens of opponents of the protest stepped in and prompted the protesters to scatter.

The group Disarm NYPD announced that it would burn both American and Confederate flags at the protest, and called them both objectionable symbols.

"We maintain, unwaveringly, that both the Confederate flag, and the American flag are symbols of oppression," the group said.

The organization plans to burn them both at Fort Greene Park, "to demonstrate for the Charleston nine and all of those killed by racist violence in America."

More than 350 people had indicated that they would be attending the flag burning. But 1010 WINS reported only about half a dozen people were seen setting fire to an American flag.

The flag was burned away from the area where people were gathered. Defenders of the stars and stripes noticed smoke up the hills in the park and ran to see what happened -- only to find the flag burning inside a small grill, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

Fort Greene Park Flag Burning
An American flag is burned during a protest in Fort Greene Park on Wednesday, July 1. (Credit: ANIMAL New York)

One of the flag-burning opponents, John Carroll of Ridgewood, Queens, managed to pull the burned flag out of the flames. The protesters quickly scattered as some angry locals moved toward them, 1010 WINS reported.

"They're losers looking for a few minutes of fame," Carroll told CBS2. "And they didn't even have the guts to do it down there where they were far outnumbered, and I got here before they destroyed it completely."

ANIMAL New York also captured a video of two men in masks burning a Confederate battle flag.

It was not clear whether the Disarm NYPD group was behind the flag burning that ended up taking place.

The idea behind the protest was unpopular with many from the start.

"There's no comparison between the American flag and the Confederate flag," Isabel Cordova told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock.

"It's two different things. One stands for freedom and democracy, another stands for something completely different," Steven McKie said.

"I think about all the soldiers that gave their lives over the years to protect this free ground we stand on today, the men and women serving overseas," New York State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), said.

Golden had wanted the demonstration stopped, but not just for sentimental reasons.

"To go into a park you need a permit. If you're going to start a fire, you need a permit," he said.

But after the demonstration went ahead and a flag was burned, Golden issued a new statement denouncing the protest.

"As a proud American, I was disheartened to learn that the American flag was burned tonight in historic Fort Greene Park. It is a sad day for all of us to watch this despicable act of hatred take place on sacred Brooklyn ground," he said in the statement. "I salute the many pro-Americans who showed up and stood tall in the name of our rights and liberties."

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement through his deputy press secretary, Monica Klein, also denouncing the protest.

"This protest is a divisive, disrespectful way to express views, and does not reflect the values of our city. The American flag represents national unity, our shared ideals and honors the brave women and men who have served our country," said the Mayor's office statement, issued before the protest.

The Mayor's office had urged the organizers to call off the protest.

The NYPD told CBS2 that the group has neither applied for, nor has it been granted a permit to gather.

"We'll be there this evening and monitoring it. If it goes into the realms of criminality we'll certainly deal with it," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

Bratton added that burning the flag is legal, an expression of the First Amendment.


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