Iowa Man Criminally Charged For Flying American Flag Upside Down

There is a highly disturbing story out of Somers, Iowa where Homer Martz was reportedly charged for flying a U.S. flag upside down in protest over an oil pipeline put near his home. It is clearly a protected act under the First Amendment, but the town of Somers appears to lack a single lawyer — or a telephone number for a single lawyer — to explain free speech protections to them.

Martz reportedly put the upside down flag under the Chinese flag.  He was enraged by  the pipeline set to be placed without his consent next to his water well.  He added a sign reading “In China there is no freedom, no protesting, no due process. In Iowa? In America?”

There is still an Iowa law making flag desecration is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Iowa code 718A criminalizes “publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state.”

It is one of 40 such state laws, but it is presumptively unconstitutional.  In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson491 U.S. 397 (1989), that prohibitions on desecrating the American flag were unconstitutional.  Obviously, if you can burn a flag, you can fly it upside down. If that were not enough for Somers police and officials, the Court ruled in 1990 in United States v. Eichman496 U.S. 310 (1990) that a federal law against flag desecration violated the First Amendment.

Marty is a veteran and said that he would never has flown the flag upside had he known it was illegal.  It isn’t illegal but his town does not appear to realize it.

21 thoughts on “Iowa Man Criminally Charged For Flying American Flag Upside Down”

  1. This was done in the movie – The Valley Of Elah – by the Tommy Lee Jones character after he discovers why his son was killed after arriving back home rom an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq.

  2. Flying the flag upside down is a recognized distress signal. See

    Title 4, Chapter 1

    § 8(a)The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

  3. What was he actually charged with? Was it flag desecration? Or, was he possibly charged with sending out a false distress signal and potentially tying up emergency resources?

  4. It is one of 40 such state laws, but it is presumptively unconstitutional. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson,

    No, it’s ‘unconstitutional’ in the imaginations of appellate judges, who crafted a half-baked idea that there are such things as protected ‘speech acts’, which, conveniently, never included torching Mr. Justice Brennan’s chambers.

  5. Who is their prosecutor? Do they depend on the county? Then he will have to as well.

  6. OK, the (DAPL) pipeline gets approved scenario & pipeline leaks. Peru 2016:

    Consult with Fernando Osores Plenge in Lima, environmentalist doctor, magister in Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the University Cayetano Heredia, and showed him the photos we took in the Quebrada de Cuninico, channel floating pipeline Norperuano, and pointed out that “the layers surface oily observed correspond to persistent organic oil derivatives, with the aggravating circumstance that there are concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, beceno, toluene, xylene and highly poisonous heavy metals to humans, the risk to life ecosystem and beings humans have not been quantified. ”

    We asked Osores, if this situation affects the health of native communities living in the area, and drink water and eat fish from the area. We said yes, “that persistent organic compounds of oil affect water quality and contaminate the food chain, because the integrity and health of people affected by substance abuse, directly across the water and indirectly through the fish that are their main source of protein. ”

    We asked what should be done to ensure the remeasurement of the affected area. Said that “studies of soil, sediment, water and fish should be, technically capable and accredited by independent bodies to ensure that oil posderrame biological cycles have regained their balance. While no such studies, one can not say that the area is remediated. ”

    Similarly, we asked how to ensure the health of communities living around the affected area, and replied that “1) had to provide drinking water in a sustained manner over time, 2) ensure food supply respecting the customs, 3) conduct an epidemiological study to establish a toxic situational line of the affected population.”

  7. As a veteran he was asked to potentially or actually risk his life on behalf of the Constitution, not the flag. He had every right to do what he did. It was a valid protest and the questions he posed deserve answers from his city govt.

    I am disgusted by totalitarianism in America. We don’t worship flags. They are a symbol only, supposedly of a functioning democracy. We don’t have that. The govt.-corporate amalgam did much more than turn a flag upside down. They have turned this nation upside down and made it brutal, lawless and more unjust than ever. Shame on them. Shame on people who support a police state be they on the left or the right.

    BTW, his well will be toast, but who needs water anyway?

  8. Land of the free my ass… Ayn Rand was right:

    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. ” ~(paraphrased: Page 406 of Ayn Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged )

  9. The American flag is merely a SYMBOL of freedom and our “constitutional democratic republic” form of government.

    The irony is since the “War on Drugs” and the “War on a Tactic” after 9/11 – most Americans have been excessively apathetic about desecrating our freedoms and desecrating our “constitutional democratic republic”. We allow government to violate religious freedom, freedom of the Press, warrantless wiretapping and denying constitutional due process. Even the Tea Party folks were silent when Bush was desecrating American values. Both parties in the 2016 election are virtually silent on this desecration of American freedoms. Every government employee at the federal, state and local levels take a supreme loyalty oath to NOT desecrate those freedoms.

    Americans could care less about losing their freedoms and constitutional rights, so why do they jump up and down if we are only desecrating the symbol? We have already destroyed what the symbol actually stands for!

  10. Let’s see now, a citizen in Somer, Iowa gets arrested for exercising his peaceful and constitutionally-protected right of free speech by flying his American flag upside-down but in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, law enforcement has its hands full trying to peacefully contain violent and unconstitutional rioting, looting and arson. What is the civics lesson being taught to the citizens?

  11. For some zealot nuts it’s ‘lock ’em up!’ for silly cartoons they don’t like. In this case it’s ‘lock ’em up!’ for a flag position they don’t like. Your choices of becoming a member of the insane are only limited by your imagination.

  12. At least he owned a flag
    What about people who don’t even own one?
    Do they get to judge?

  13. Oh, the Black Labrador they take into the courthouse is a “seeing eye dog”. The dog will have a sign on his side saying: BLM Leading The Blind.

  14. The Tinker case arose in Iowa. The students wore black armbands to school in a protest of the Vietnam War. They were punished. The case was won in the Supreme Court (Tinker v. Bd of Ed. of Des Moine, IA). The plaintiffs are now adults after all those years and they sometimes travel around to different parts of the U.S. on what they call The Tinker Tour to promote free speech.

    The Tinkers need to go back to Iowa. They should wear black armbands which say: Black Labs Matter and go to this. town and into this courthouse. And they should take a Black Labrador with them. A smart lab will fart in all the right places.

  15. Oil pipeline DAPL war in Indian country live:

    On Friday, August 12, 2016 Standing Rock Sioux President, Dave Archambault was arrested at oil pipeline construction site protest in North Dakota.

    Presidents of Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge Sioux Tribe, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe want the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) stopped. Here’s video of Dave’s arrest (wearing orange shirt).

  16. Everyone in his state should fly the flag upside-down while that hypocritical law remains in place. The irony collapses into itself.

  17. Yes, it is unconstitutional to prohibit the guy from doing what he did. But I wonder why it is not permitted to curse in a courtroom, or wear weird clothing, or a BLM pin. It’s like we recognize the importance of decorum and basic civility in some places. So if Martz was drug into court, the Judge would dismiss the charges. But if Martz wore an “F— You You F—ing F—” t shirt to court, he might be in contempt, and put in the cooler for up to 6 months.


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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