1970 May 10

Protester Hangs American Flag Upside Down, With Peace Symbol, Heads to Supreme Court

 

As part of the nationwide protests of the invasion of Cambodia that began on May 1, 1970, following President Richard Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War the day before, a college student hung an American flag upside down, with peace symbols attached. He was arrested and convicted under the State of Washington’s “improper use” clause of its flag statute law. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction, in Spence v. Washington, on June 25, 1974.

The Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Learn more about attaching symbols to the American flag: http://atheism.about.com/od/flagburningcourtcases/a/SpenceWashing.htm

Learn about state flag protection laws at the First Amendment Center: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/state-flag-protection-laws

Learn more: Terry Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee (1995)

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