Hordes of people showed up at Fort Greene Park on Wednesday night for a flag-burning event, some loudly defending the American flag as a symbol of freedom while others denounced it as an emblem of white supremacy, descending into a maelstrom of flag-waving and shouting while a handful of activists quietly burned the banner in a nearby barbecue pit.
A group calling itself Disarm NYPD announced the event online last week, inviting people to join them in burning the Confederate flag as a protest against racism. The group later decided to go ahead and toss in the American flag as well, claiming it to be a modern-day symbol of oppression and racial violence, and news of the event quickly spread through the national media — which turned out in force to cover the protest.
The event was slated to take place at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Washington Place in Fort Greene Park, but when defenders of the stars and stripes showed up in patriotic regalia to fight back, there were no flag-burners in sight.
That is because the activist group was actually performing the promised torching in a tiny barbecue directly in front of the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument in the center of the park. When smoke arose over the hill, the pro-flag protesters took off running and found a small group of activists — about a dozen, according to cops — most of whom scattered when confronted with incensed members of Bay Ridge motorcycle club the Hallowed Sons.
The masses missed the activists grilling the Confederate flag, but arrived in time to see Old Glory go up in flames.
One man rushed forward to pull the American flag from the blaze, knocking an activist to the ground in the process. The guy said he was just doing what any patriot would have done.
“I’m not a hero,” said John Carroll, who lives in Queens. “I just happened to be the first guy there.”
Carroll, who also brought a fire extinguisher to the event but said he ultimately decided to leave it in his car, said he planned to take the charred remains of the flag home and call the American Legion to find out the correct way to dispose of the remnants.
One attendee said she supported the flag-burning, but that simply igniting the ensign was not enough — people need to work to eliminate racism as well, she said.
“Yeah, burn it, why not? But that’s just a symbol,” said Ebony Bailey of Fort Greene.
But most of the action took place away from the barbecue, as screaming matches broke out between groups of flag-waving patriots and others voicing anger over recent racially-motivated crimes around the country. The debates were ultimately drowned out by deafening chants of “USA! USA!”
Police say no arrests were made, though one of the activists was spotted being pulled into an police van, apparently to separate him from enraged pro-flag protesters.