This is what happens when you try to host a mass flag burning in Brooklyn: You don’t. At least not on the day advertised on social media.
Because on Wednesday evening, a horde of patriotic bikers and American-flag-hoisting hotheads crawled out of the city’s conservative netherworld and descended on Fort Greene Park—hellbent on stopping a red, white and blue barbecue they tripped over on Facebook.
“We’re here to f**k up tiny liberal punks,” one biker reportedly declared.
Little did they know the fiery protest—organized by the group Disarm NYPD—is believed to have occurred in secret the night before. Minutes before the event, Disarm posted a video online of Old Glory ignited in a sneaky maneuver that turned bloodthirsty TV reporters, and even some demonstration supporters, into sorry suckers.
But the flag-wavers claimed victory for themselves. They apparently extinguished one flash-in-the-pan protest that most people had missed.
“America is the best country on the planet!” squawked Bay Ridge, Brooklyn resident Diane Atkins, whose Star-Spangled Facebook page features a photo with GOP presidential stumper Ted Cruz and who posts against having to press ‘1’ for English.
“We all come through together. We fight, we do like what any other family does … but we come together under THIS flag and people need to recognize that,” Atkins said. “God bless America!”
A gaggle circled the stout, blond Atkins for a spell, then zeroed in on a new voice in the form of Victoria Phillips, an African-American woman from Brooklyn. Phillips announced she wanted to speak out against racism at the hands of cops and American institutions.
Instead, she was drowned out by Atkins and the red-faced mob chanting “USA! USA!” over her. Within minutes, the scheduled dissent became a short-lived shouting match before an audience of idle NYPD cops, fire officials and TV crews deployed to the scene.
Burly bikers with Bay Ridge’s Hallowed Sons Motorcycle Club—who told a Daily Beast reporter not to mention them in this article—were central to the racket. One ringleader, who later identified himself as Joe, yelled at Phillips, “Time out! I’m talking! I have the right not to be interrupted!”
Phillips shouted, “There’s a lot of injustice going on right now,” and tried to broach the recent string of arsons against black churches. Atkins exclaimed she had “Sharptonitis.” Before Phillips walked away in tears, Atkins shrieked, “America shut you down!”
When Phillips had room to breathe, she said, “I’m just as American as anybody. If I want to burn a flag, I’ll burn a thousand of them!”
“All you’ll see tonight is the bikers and their flags and ‘USA,’ but you won’t hear any piece of the truth out here … against corrupt cops, against corrupt corrections officers, against the injustice that goes on in America,” Phillips wailed.
The crowd died down, and the motorcyclists and their stars-and-stripes defenders chased after some smoke that emanated from a nearby hill. There, a handful of people watched a small flag burn in a grill before a man from Queens pulled it from the flames, Pix 11 reported.
Police said no arrests were made but that they removed some people from the park, according to the TV station.
The anarchists’ escort by police prompted the New York Post to proclaim: Cops save anti-NYPD flag-burners from angry bikers.
Joe the biker and his crew stormed out in an indomitable sea of leather kuttes. Joe breathed, “We came here—if you have a problem with the government, don’t take it out on the flag. The flag covers military families.”
What was to be a Confederate flag burning—in light of a racist shooter’s massacre on a Southern black church—turned into an American banner inferno. The goal was to condemn deep-seated racism and the flag as “a symbol of oppression and genocide,” according to Disarm NYPD’s Facebook page.
Days before the much ballyhooed spectacle, Disarm NYPD was called “cop haters” and became the subject of a fleeting New York media outrage.
Rather than go out with a bang, the organizers apparently torched the colors in a dead-of-night whimper at the park’s Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument, then posted a video on Facebook.
“Last night, we decided to take immediate action, and burned the American flag in Fort Greene Park,” the group wrote. “The desecration of this symbol is timely and incredibly necessary at this juncture in political affairs.”
Then Disarm NYPD blamed the media for ignoring the murder of black men.
“While the spectacular media has riled itself up into an all too familiar frenzy, the usual suspects threw a rather impressive temper tantrum over the burning of these symbols,” the group continued.
“Yet, the same obnoxious voices went noticeably silent at the slow murder of Kalief Browder, Freddy [sic] Gray’s killing, the Charleston massacre, and a long list of other crimes the racist right and their allies, like the NYPD, have committed.”
Less than an hour after the event started, only a phalanx of stone-faced police officers waited at the scene and seemed unsure of what to do next.
Peter Miller, a self-described revolutionary and retired teacher in Brooklyn, said he came for the flag burning and assumed “some decent people would show up.”
“It was a disappointment,” Miller told The Daily Beast. “It was a rally of reactionaries supporting the flag. This is essentially a rally of cops and Marines.”