Some say anti-Biden flag in New York Mills goes too far with First Amendment rights

Two flags are flying on one pole outside of a home in New York Mills but it's one of those flags some want taken down.

Posted: Apr 16, 2021 6:26 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2021 9:41 AM

NEW YORK MILLS, N.Y. - When Nancy Remchuk of Whitesboro drove along Burrstone Road in New York Mills earlier this week she says she couldn't believe her eyes after seeing a profanity-laced flag in someone's front yard for all to see.

Two flags are on the same pole, so you see the American flag as you are heading west, and the anti-Biden flag as you are heading east.

The anti-Biden flag features a four-letter profanity, reading '**** Biden', and at the bottom of the flag, using that same four-letter word, it says "And **** you if you voted for him."

Remchuk says she feels everyone has their right to their political opinion but she says it's sad to see people use such profanity so publicly, especially where kids have to see it every time their school bus goes by it, as the home with the flag is not far from the entrance to New York Mills Union Free School, "My reaction being a former teacher was that it’s so close to the high school and I used to give kids detention on a regular basis if they used that kind of language so that most assuredly is a mixed message, what are these kids thinking, I just got in trouble because I said a four-letter word, whether It’s that one or another one, but now it’s ok to hang that on my front yard."

Remchuk says having that profanity hanging along with the American flag is disrespectful, "The first thing that went through my mind was how disrespectful that was. We believe in the First Amendment but to desecrate the American flag which is symbolic to all of us, just broke my heart to see that."

Another woman walking along Burrstone Road, who didn't want to be identified, echoed Remchuk's sentiments about the flag and hopes the homeowner takes it down.

The flag is protected under the First Amendment.

Local attorney and former Congressman Michael Arcuri says it may be hard for some people to see, but it's perfectly legal for the homeowner to fly the flag, "It goes back to 1971 and a case called California v. Cohen and in that case the Supreme Court justice Harlan wrote a decision, a person had a jacket on that used that same word, that same epitaph, **** The Draft, and they wore that on their coat to the California State House and the Court said, it went all the way up, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said nope, that's free speech and he can do it. It’s been since 1971, but that decision by the Supreme Court has not been overturned."

Arcuri says he understands both sides to this story, "I think it’s unfortunate, I certainly would not want my 10-year-old to see it, but it is, I think, one of our freedoms. It’s one of the sacrifices that we have to make in order to guarantee our freedoms and that’s how I would explain it to my daughter. It’s not right, but they have a right to free speech the same right way that you have a right to free speech, that’s what makes our country great, that’s one of the sacrifices we make, I think that’s the way that I would explain it to my 10-year-old."

We tried to reach the homeowner to get his comments on why he put the flag up, and get his thoughts on people's negative reaction to it, but so far he has not returned our call.

New York Mills Mayor Ernie Talerico released a statement to NEWSChannel 2 on Friday. He says, "My constituents have their opinion and have voiced it to you. I am glad they are expressing their opinion about the flag. The person who has the flag is expressing their opinion as well. As far as legality is concerned, the village board understands that political speech in the U.S. receives one of the highest levels of protection under the First Amendment."

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