The slaying of nine people at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month is still resonating across the country. A handful of black churches have gone up in flames in the days since, raising questions about copycat racial violence. And in states where the Confederate flag—a favorite of alleged shooter Dylann Roof—still flies, calls to take it down are having an impact, with Alabama's governor ordering the four in his state capitol taken down and South Carolina inching in the same direction.
In Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park on Wednesday night, local police-reform activists with the group Disarm the NYPD promised to burn both the Confederate flag and the US flag to highlight America's troubled racial history.
"We maintain, unwaveringly, that both the Confederate flag and the American flag are symbols of oppression," the group wrote on Facebook.
By the time 7:30 PM rolled around, a bevy of angry bikers apparently affiliated with the Hallowed Sons crew, as well as some large men armed with Super Soakers, had shown up to make sure the stars and stripes weren't burned. These are the kind of reactionary middle-aged guys you don't normally encounter at a park in New Brooklyn. But someone—whether they were with Disarm the NYPD or not remains unclear—did, in fact, burn an American flag. Apparently determined to evade the patriotic horde, the activists set the flag alight at the Prison Ship Martyr's Monument, beyond the reach of most of the crowd, which was assembled downhill.
In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed disapproval through spokeswoman Monica Klein.
"This protest is a divisive, disrespectful way to express views, and does not reflect the values of our city. The American flag represents national unity, our shared ideals and honors the brave women and men who have served our country."
Here's a look at the bizarre spectacle as it unfolded.