What pushes a 51 year-old decorated World War II veteran to burn the American flag? In June of 1966, Sidney Street heard the news that James Meredith, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, had been shot on the second day of his March Against Fear. Street, an African American himself, burned the flag and was arrested. Street declared, “If they let that happen to Meredith, we don’t need an American flag.” So sparked the question of whether the government can punish someone for using words to defile or disrespect an American flag.
In this episode of Make No Law, the First Amendment Podcast by Popehat.com, host Ken White examines Street v. New York, the Supreme Court case which concluded that the First Amendment allows freedom of expression towards the American flag -- if not yet the right to burn it. The episode features the input of Professor Aram Goudsouzian, the chair of the History Department at the University of Memphis, and the author of the book “Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear.”
The episode also features a listener question from Ben Olson about the inclusion of the word “Congress” in the First Amendment -- if the First Amendment says it only applies to Congress, why is it applied to protect us from action by state and local government? This question leads Ken to discuss the Fourteenth Amendment and the Incorporation Doctrine. If there’s a case you want to hear about, or a First Amendment question you’d like answered on the podcast, email Ken at email@example.com.