May 30, 2014
Back in October 2009, Frank L. Snider, III, was arrested by a Cape Girardeau police officer because he desecrated a flag on the sidewalk in front of his home to protest government acts. Snider was held in jail for eight hours on a charge of violating Missouri’s flag desecration statute. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has been representing Snider since 2010 in a volley of lawsuits and appeals.
Today, the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s judgment holding that Snider’s expressive actions were fully protected by the United States Constitution, Cape Girardeau Police Officer Matthew Peters was not entitled to qualified immunity, and the Missouri statute was facially unconstitutional.
The court’s written decision states, “This country has a long history of protecting expressive conduct on First Amendment grounds, especially when the American flag is the mode of expression.”
“What sets America apart is our proud tradition of tolerating unpopular speech. Today’s decision removes any question that Missouri’s flag desecration statute is unconstitutional,” says Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “It is time we remove this unconstitutional statute from the books so Missouri’s law enforcement officials will no longer intimidate those who choose to express themselves by using the flag.”
The decision can be found on the ACLU of Missouri’s docket page for Snider v. Cape Girardeau.