(AP Photo/Susan Willems)
Vito Congine Jr. fought in Iraq as a Marine in 2004 because as we were constantly reminded by our former president, “they hate us for our freedoms.”
But now the 46-year-old Wisconsin resident is learning the Iraqis are not the only ones who hate us for our freedoms.
The people who run the village of Crivitz do as well.
Congine had been flying the American flag upside in front of his restaurant since last June to protest against village officials for not granting him a liquor license. Flying the American flag upside down has long been an accepted form of distress.
Congine’s distress is that he is headed for bankruptcy after spending nearly $200,000 to buy and remodel a downtown building for an Italian supper club.
His protest had gone ignored until the Fourth of July when four cops stepped onto his property and removed the flag – under the advice of Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey, who obviously doesn’t specialize in First Amendment law.
The cops returned the flag the following day. And Brey has refused to comment on his decision.
Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula said it was not illegal to fly the flag upside down but people were upset and it was the Fourth of July.
“It is illegal to cause a disruption,” he said.
Then perhaps Brey should be jailed.
Village President John Deschane, 60, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said many people in town believe it’s disrespectful to fly the flag upside down.
“If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it,” Deschane said.
Nobody ever said protesting had to be respectful. As long as it remains within the legal boundaries, a disrespectful act is very subjective.
Congine, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq in 2004, said he intends to keep flying the flag upside down.
“It is pretty bad when I go and fight a tyrannical government somewhere else,” Congine said, “and then I come home to find it right here at my front door.”
As it is right now, the ACLU is considering legal action against Crivitz, which had a population of 998 in 2000.
Perhaps a $200,000 lawsuit could save him from the distress of bankruptcy.