(Reuters) - An Illinois man who posted a picture of himself burning an American flag on social media on the July Fourth U.S. holiday will not be charged because flag burning is protected speech, authorities said on Tuesday.
Bryton Mellott, 22, was charged with flag desecration and disorderly conduct when he was arrested in Urbana, Illinois, on Monday. Police had received complaints after Mellott posted the photo on his Facebook page. They also received calls expressing concern for Mellott's safety.
In addition, police said they received threats against Mellott's place of employment, a Walmart store, which raised concerns about the safety of others.
Mellott said in the original post that he was not proud to be an American, local media said. "In this moment, being proud of my country is to ignore the atrocities committed against people of color, people living in poverty, people who identify as women, and against my own queer community on a daily basis," he said in the post, which appears to have since been deleted.
“The State’s Attorney’s Office is declining to file charges against (Bryton) Mellott as the act of burning a flag is protected free speech according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Texas v. Johnson, 491 US 397 (1989),” Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said in a statement on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Justin Madden in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)