Police consider arresting flag burners

Protestors who burned US and Danish flags during last week's presidential visit might face arrest

Burning the Stars and Stripes is illegal in Denmark, but the country's red and white Dannebrog is strangely enough not protected by law.

Police are currently studying the law books in order to find a way to charge protestors who set fire to US and Danish flags during a protest of President George W. Bush's visit to Denmark last week.

When protestors found themselves in front of the US Embassy, they set fire to a US flag. At a later point in the march, they also burned the Danish flag.

Copenhagen Police Chief Per Larsen explained that the police chose not to arrest anyone during the march to avoid a confrontation with the demonstrators.

'It's not as if we just let people get away, but in this situation, we thought it would be better to clean up the demonstration peacefully,' said Larsen.

Larsen said that the police nevertheless had a good idea of who was responsible for the act.

He was not in doubt that burning the US flag was a violation of paragraph 110 E of Denmark's criminal code, which prohibits disgracing flags or other symbols of foreign states.

If found guilty, the protestors could be punished with a fine or up to two years of imprisonment.

Larsen was somewhat unsure about the penalty for burning the Danish flag, however.

'I think that it might be just as bad or even worse to burn one's own flag. But I have to admit I can't find it in the criminal code, but one could always cite it as a disturbance of the peace,' he said.

Gorm Toftegaard Nielsen, a professor of criminal law at Aarhus University, also had difficulty citing a specific law that Danish flag burners broke.

'As far as I know, it does not say anywhere that you can't burn the Danish flag,' said Nielsen.

Nielsen noted, however, that punishing people for disgracing a flag could be considered an infringement of their freedom of speech.

'Desecrating other nations' flags is often an expression of political convictions which are protected by freedom of speech,' said Nielsen.

He noted that the last time the paragraph 110 E had been cited was in 1936.

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