Two employees of the New York City Parks Department were spotted using an American flag as a mop to clean Coney Island restroom, according to a witness who spoke with The New York Post.
Jose Gonzalez, 44, a 26-year member of the “Guardian Angels” volunteer street patrol organization, said he was on patrol at the Coney Island Boardwalk on Saturday when he saw a pair of Parks Department employees wiping down a men’s bathroom with the American flag.
He took a picture of the American flag wrapped around the mop head and shared the image with the New York Post.
— New York Post (@nypost) June 13, 2020
Gonzalez said an elderly man identified as a veteran confronted the employees and yelled at them over their use of the flag.
The veteran reportedly said the employees “can’t use the flag to wipe up urine and s–t from the floor.”
Gonzalez said, “the Parks guy didn’t see what the big deal was and told him, ‘It’s just a symbol.”
Gonzalez said the veteran then stormed out of the restroom after the encounter.
The Parks Department did not respond to the Posts requests for comment about the incident.
“This is an absolute disgrace especially one day before Flag Day, an honored day that no one is discussing in New York City,” said Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels organization. “Clearly, we are not educating our citizens. At a time when we are all divided, it’s the flag that brings us together.”
The incident came one day before Sunday’s celebration of Flag Day, marking the 243 year anniversary of the American flag’s inception in 1777.
According to Cornell Law, U.S. Flag Code does state the flag “should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.”
The code also states the flag “should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has, however, ruled 5-4 in the 1989 case of Texas v. Johnson, that burning and damaging the flag is considered protected speech under the U.S. Constitution.