JONESBORO, Ark. – Around 6 AM Friday morning, just as the sun was rising over Jonesboro, Paul Jay DeFord was driving to work.
At the corner of Highland Drive and Red Wolf Boulevard, something unusual caught his eye, he told NEA Report.
“I saw something on fire,” DeFord. “I said, “Is that the flag?”
DeFord said two unknown-to-him masked men were burning the American flag at one of the busiest intersections in Jonesboro. One wore a black mask with a skull on the front of it while the other had a hoodie on.
“I have a strong military family background and that is not cool,” DeFord said. His father served in the National Guard and both grandfathers served in the military, as well. “If we let two or three bullies start coming into our city and burning things, then soon we will have 50 coming in burning things.”
The video shows what happened next. DeFord recorded as he angrily got out of his vehicle. With a few expletives attached, he told the two men, “Not on my watch.”
VIDEO WARNING – EXPLICIT LANGUAGE:
“I felt bad for dropping the foul language,” DeFord said. “I don’t normally talk like that but when you’re worked up and mad…it just struck a nerve with me.”
The two men can be seen quickly departing in a white SUV as DeFord, a 6’3″ 250 pound bodybuilder, charges toward them through traffic.
“I literally got out in traffic and traffic [screeched to a halt] and they looked up and saw me and didn’t want any part of it,” DeFord said.
DeFord said his reason for filming was to try to get their license plate number or some other way to identify the individuals, who he believed were from out of town.
In comments, local residents reported seeing another flag burning at an intersection nearby. At least one photo of another flag burning was captured.
From a purely legal sense, flag burning is considered a form of “symbolic speech” that is protected by the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court (narrowly) ruled. Some lawmakers have since proposed the Flag Desecration Amendment which would provide punishment for desecrating the American flag. Only a constitutional amendment could overrule the Supreme Court’s ruling.