On Thursday morning, Nov. 10, Asheville resident Rik Shell burned a handmade American flag outside of the city’s Federal Building.
Shell told Xpress the move was a protest against President-elect Donald Trump. “It’s got my stomach tied in knots. We don’t know what he’s going to do, but from the way he’s spoken about people of color, women, immigrants … I don’t expect him to respect the Constitution and the things we hold dear as Americans,” said Shell.
Shell says his family made the flag to take to President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, “To us, it’s a symbol of hope and pride in our country,” he said.
“It is time to respectfully lay it to rest. I wanted to do it here in front of the federal building to show the newly elected leadership that we are not going to stand for any taking away of the rights, dignity and personhood of all people.”
Shell and another protester folded the flag, in ceremonial style, and then he paced it in a metal container with a fire extinguisher nearby. “It’s with a heavy heart that we lay this flag to rest. If we get a new flag to symbolize the new leadership of this nation it would have to be polyester, made in China, cheap and from Wal-Mart,” he proclaimed before striking a match to light the flag on fire.
The flag never became fully engulfed by fire and mostly smoked for a minute before Asheville Fire Marshall Karen Schuart extinguished the fire.
Schuart also issued Shell a $250 citation for violating Buncombe County’s current burn ban, noting she could have fined him more, but was taking into consideration Shell’s cooperation.
Two Asheville Police officers also attended. Sgt. Evan Coward told Xpress he got wind of the event and reached out to Shell so he wouldn’t be surprised by the attendance of law enforcement. “If everybody’s on the same page it’s safer and better for everybody,” Coward told Xpress, also noting Shell would not face any charges related to burning the flag.
Ultimately, the flag burning took place without incident. Members of the media, law enforcement and a few onlookers gathered to watch on the steps of the federal building.
The sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, where Shell burned the flag, is a public right-of-way and is considered city property.