Veteran 'at a loss for words' after Portland protesters burn flags

Veteran responds to flag burning at protest

PORTLAND, Ore. --On Inauguration Day, an estimated 10,000 people demonstrated in downtown Portland. In Pioneer Courthouse Square, people burned flags.

For many people watching the scene unfold, that was taking things too far.

Eric Post, a Marine veteran, saw video of the flag burning. After witnessing it, he was disgusted, disappointed and angry.

Post uploaded a Facebook video taken at Willamette National Cemetery. He said originally he uploaded it for his close friends and family to see, but now he's getting messages from thousands of people across the country.

“I'm truly at a loss for words,” began Post in the video.“I don't get emotional, but coming up here right now after seeing the footage of what's happening, it's sickening.”  

The Facebook video has gone viral, with more than 2 million views and 50,000 shares.

As veteran, seeing the U.S. flag on fire hits home.

“That flag may have draped a coffin coming home. That flag may be the last thing they have as a memory,” he said.

His message isn’t just resonating with veterans. Many civilian Americans are also connecting with what he’s saying.

“I'm getting thousands of messages from all over [from people] who have never served, never had anybody in their family serve, but are just grateful to live in this country and that flag represents it to them,” said Post.

But before he posted the video, his initial reaction was anger. He said his plan was to head to the square.

“I was dressed and ready, driving downtown to go face them face to face. That's the marine in me. That's the man in me. That's the pride in me. But I got a text message from my daughter on the drive down there that said I love you daddy,” Post said.

In that moment, he chose a different approach.

“I wanted to be respectful. I wanted to be thoughtful and let my real emotions show,” he said.

While seeing a flag burn can be emotional for many, free speech advocates say it is protected under the First Amendment.

"The Supreme Court has said that symbolic speech, expressive speech, is just as important as the written and spoken word,” said Mat Dos Santos, the Legal Director of ACLU of Oregon.

“The flag is a beautiful symbol of the freedoms we have in this country. But it’s a symbol of the protections we have because of our constitution, and we want to prioritize protecting the constitution and the liberties enshrined therein, not just the symbols,” Santos said.

Still, Post hopes people will find a different way to communicate.

“They may have a very valid message that they want to get heard. But it’s not being heard by the millions of people that can’t listen past the flag burning,” said Post.

Post said he doesn't want to take away anyone's rights. Free speech is one of the things he and others fought for.

"The symbol of the flag isn't what you're protesting. That's what gives you the ability to protest. You should cherish that, not burn it,” said Post in his Facebook video.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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