An Iowa man was arrested Thursday and was charged with desecrating the U.S. flag after hanging it upside down beneath a Chinese flag in protest at his home.
The Fort Dodge Messenger reported that Homer Martz, an Army veteran, of Somers, put up the flag to protest an oil pipeline being built without his consent next to a well that supplies water to his home. Martz said he was arrested at by Calhoun County sheriffs at around 11 a.m.
“They said, ‘You can’t do this. We have a statute.’ I said I’m sorry but you shouldn’t have took them down,” Martz told The Messenger. “So I walked back out and put them back up, and they arrested me.”
Calhoun County Attorney Tina Meth-Farrington said that Martz faces simple misdemeanor and if convicted he could get a fine and at least 30 days in jail for a desecration charge.
Martz said he didn’t know he was breaking the law. According to Iowa code 718A, Martz was charged with a misdemeanor because he tried to “publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state.”
The paper reported that if authorities fail to enforce the law, they could be removed from office.
“If they had asked me to take them down, and showed me the statute, I would have taken them down,” he said. “But in my book, they trespassed by taking the flags down.”
Martz protested the construction of an oil pipeline that he being built by the Texas-based company Dakota Access and will cross into Iowa. The company was granted the right to use eminent domain to take the land from landowners. The line will pass between Martz’s home and well and he fears construction will break his waterline.
Dakota Access told the paper that they will fix the line if it’s damaged during construction.
Martz said his rights were trampled on.
“I’m a soldier,” he added. “When I walked to the airport in the ’70s with my dress uniform on, I was spit on. I stood in front of people that were protesting, and I’ve been cussed at. And like I said, that’s their rights. I’ve never infringed on their rights.
“But you know, freedom of speech, freedom to protest – people can burn the American flag,” Martz said. “It’s legal. That’s the Supreme Court.”