One Iowa City FedEx driver stepped in to save Old Glory Thursday, thwarting the plans of a few protesters who decided to burn the American flag over "racial and social injustice and U.S. imperialism."
According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the protest was not intended to be anti-veteran, but was meant to highlight their disagreements with the new Trump White House.
However, Matt Uhrin, a uniformed FedEx employee, didn't see it as just a peaceful demonstration. He saw it as an assault on American values, so he rushed in with his bare hands and a fire extinguisher to rescue the flag, tussling with several protesters as he yanked it away from the flames.
Though he declined to comment, he told the Press-Citizen that his actions had nothing to do with his employer.
One bystander who saw the ordeal defended Uhrin, telling the aggressive demonstrators that he's "with this guy."
"That's not freedom — that's treason, man," he said of the flag burning. "The opportunity, the clothes you have on your back, was provided because of that flag."
"I don't agree with Trump, no," he continued. "But this s**t is not how you unite a country."
His comments immediately silenced the demonstrators, one of whom timidly replied: "That's not our job."
"Get college-educated, guys," the onlooker replied as he walked away.
Press-Citizen reporter Stephen Gruber-Miller caught the entire incident on video.
Happening now: a confrontation on the ped mall as people burn an American flag as protest. pic.twitter.com/aPkMdls6oQ
— Stephen GruberMiller (@sgrubermiller) January 26, 2017
However, the confrontation didn't seem to change the minds of the protesters. Paul Osgerby, one of the demonstrators in Iowa City's pedestrian mall, across the street from the Old Capitol Mall, said the flag is a symbol of "racial injustice."
"When I see the flag, I see racial injustice," Osgerby told the Press-Citizen. "I see social injustice from Native American genocide to African-American slavery to failing to recognize women as citizens until the 20th century."
David Scrivner, a photographer for the Press-Citizen, captured stunning images of the protest and Uhrin's efforts to stop it.
A group was out on the ped mall this afternoon burning flags in protest. FedEx driver jumped in to extinguish them. https://t.co/ElW01BrIfu— David Scrivner (@David Scrivner) 1485458619.0
Two protesters — Osgerby and Kelli Ebensberger — were arrested and charged with breaking Iowa City's ordinance against public burning. The charge is a simple misdemeanor and punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $625.
It is important to note that, according to Iowa City Police Sgt. Scott Gaarde, the two demonstrators were not charged because of what they were burning but because they chose to do so without seeking a permit first.
Iowa did have a law that made it illegal to burn, defile or satirize the American flag, but that law was deemed unconstitutional in December 2014 and state officials were told not to enforce the ordinance.
"It’s not for the content of what they were burning but rather for violating the city ordinance of open burning," Gaarde said.
Ebensberger said she knew they were violating the law by burning the flag without the proper allowances but decided to do so anyway to make a point.
"If you start criminalizing one aspect of protesting it's only a matter of time before they start criminalizing it all," she told the Press-Citizen.
At press time, FedEx had not issued a statement on the matter.