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NYPD officer appears to purposely step on US flag after ripping pole from 'proof of vaccine' protester, throwing pole on ground

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Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @ChrisWrightInNY, composite

During the arrest Sunday of a man protesting against New York City's "proof of vaccine" requirement to enter restaurants and other establishments, video showed what appeared to be an NYPD officer purposely stepping on an American flag inside the Panera Bread restaurant where the arrest took place.

What happened?

Police told the New York Post that a 42-year-old man and other members of a “disorderly group” refused to leave the Panera at the Gateway Center Mall just after 3 p.m. despite “multiple requests."

The paper — citing photographer Leeroy Johnson, who tweeted video of the incident — said protesters entered five Paneras in New York City on Sunday in defiance of the the city’s mandate to show proof of vaccination before dining in.

Johnson's video shows officers surrounding the man in question and struggling with other protesters trying to hold on to an American flag.

“You don’t deserve to touch that flag, sir,” the man, whose name was not released, hollered at an officer, the Post said.

“The flag does not touch the ground!” the man — whom Johnson identified as an Army veteran — also yelled, the paper said.

But video taken from a different angle shows that amid the struggle for a short pole to which the U.S. flag was attached, it appears an NYPD officer yanked the pole from one of the protesters:

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @ChrisWrightInNY

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @ChrisWrightInNY

The officer threw the pole on the floor, then appears to have purposely stepped on the flag, first with the right foot:

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @ChrisWrightInNY

Then with both feet at once and turning their direction:

Image source: Twitter video screenshot via @ChrisWrightInNY

The NYPD on Monday afternoon didn't respond to TheBlaze's request for comment about the officer and the flag, although police did say the man they arrested was issued a summons.

Here's the clip from the alternate angle:

What happened next?

As police handcuffed the protester, he yelled, “The Constitution of the United States is being violated!" and “I cannot eat, and my sisters and brothers cannot work!” the Post said, adding that he also told police he wasn’t resisting arrest.

Police noted to the paper the man was told he was trespassing and then was “taken into custody without further incident."

What did Panera have to say?

“The safety and security of our guests and employees is paramount,” a Panera spokesperson said in a statement, according to the Post. “We continue to closely follow all New York State masking mandates accordingly. As this is an ongoing police matter, we ask that all further media inquiries are directed to the NYPD.”

Anything else?

The Panera arrest occurred less than a week after six individuals protesting for the same reason were arrested in a Cheesecake Factory in Queens, police added to the paper.

Initially, about 40 protesters entered the restaurant in the Queens Center mall at 7 p.m. Tuesday and refused to show proof of vaccination, the Post said, citing police.

Video showed people arguing with police, including one who compared the officers to Nazis, the paper said.

Group members were charged with criminal trespass, the Post said.

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