Tim Mielke had an idea.
While his Helena, Montana, neighborhood is filled with supporters of former President Donald Trump — and had been decorated with multiple pro-Trump flags and signs in various yards — Mielke thought that when Trump lost the election in November the flags and signs would come down, the Independent Record reported.
So Mielke, 36, decided to offer a countering point of view: A flag that looked an awful lot like pro-Trump banners and flags and signs — except for the wording.
It read, "Trump Lost LOL," the paper said.
"I just was sick of the entire neighborhood looking like it was for Trump," he told the paper in a previous story. "I wanted to let people know other views existed."
As you might imagine, not everyone was happy to get an eyeful of Mielke's new flag.
In fact, he told the Independent Record that folks with Trump flags have tried to run him off the road — but Mielke apparently is unconcerned about things getting out of hand.
"Even if they do shoot at me they don't know how to aim," he said.
So, on March 1 Mielke's security camera caught a man across the street hollering at Mielke, "When are you gonna take your [anti-gay slur]-a** flag down?" the paper said. The man added that Mielke was "in the wrong neighborhood" and also called him a "queer."
Mielke — who is gay, the Independent Record said — remained polite while engaging with the man across the street, who added that the way Mielke was responding was "what all [anti-gay slur] say." He also called Mielke a "p***y."
Well, the neighbor across the street — 43-year-old Michael Challans — was cited for disorderly conduct March 9 by Helena police who said they got a complaint a few days after the incident saying Challans had used "loud, profane and offensive language," called his neighbor a "queer," and used a vulgar slur.
"He is going to fly that flag, and he expects no one will say anything to him?" Challans told the paper after being cited. "I was in my own yard, and behind my fence. How could anyone get in any trouble for that?"
Challans added to the Independent Record that Mielke is "just antagonizing people to say something to him and then he calls a cop. He causes problems."
He also told the paper, "I didn't harm him or anything. I have no problems with gay people."
But as his Monday hearing approached, Challans showed some remorse.
Before entering the courtroom, Challans told the paper he apologized to Mielke: "I used the wrong words. I feel horrible for what I said to him. Nobody deserves that."
Challans added that Mielke "deserved an apology. If I had known he was gay I wouldn't have used the words I did," the Independent Record reported.
What went down in court?
Challans pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor Monday in Helena Municipal Court and was ordered to pay $100 in fines and $85 in court costs, the paper said.
Judge Courtney Cosgrove told Challans he'd have to go to the police department to be fingerprinted and have a booking photo taken, given the nature of the citation, the Independent Record said, although Challens was not to be detained.
Mielke seemed satisfied with the outcome, telling the paper "it seems the issue is resolved, and that is fantastic."
Still, Challans added to the Independent Record that since the incident was reported he's received threats on social media from users who said they'll burn down his house.
"What is the difference of what I did to them and them burning my house down to make me pay in some kind of way?" he asked the paper before his hearing. "It's an outrageous double standard."
"Whatever happened to sticks and stones?" Challans asked the Independent Record. "The world is so sensitive. Words can't hurt you."
Neighborhood harassment over political flags youtu.be