Vietnam Veteran Prosecuted by Feds for Displaying Flag at VA Facility

(Matthew Boyer, Liberty Headlines) After the federal government charged a 74-year-old veteran for displaying American flags last Memorial Day, legal group Judicial Watch says it will represent him before a U.S. magistrate judge next month.

Robert Rosebrock

Vietnam War-era veteran Robert Rosebrock displayed two four-by-six-inch American flags to celebrate his service and that of his fellow veterans. The flags were placed on a fence at a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Los Angeles. According to Rosebrock’s own written account, he has been charged by VA police with violating a prohibition on the distribution of handbills and placard displays. He was also charged with taking photographs without permission.

Rosebrock hung his American flags on the VA fence when the police approached him on Memorial Day of last year. When law enforcement officials began their arrest, Rosebrock photographed them.

Rosebrock is not only being prosecuted for hanging the American flags and taking pictures of the incident, but also for recording another similar confrontation. Conservative activist Ted Hayes was arrested and handcuffed for displaying a flag on the fence of the Los Angeles National Veterans Park as well. Unlike Rosebrock, however, Hayes was not charged with any crimes. During this incident, Rosebrock took pictures of the police handcuffing Hayes.

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These activists aren’t new to the scene.

A group of veterans, including Rosebrock and Hayes, have met at the site almost every Sunday since 2008. They have protested for the better treatment of veterans at the Los Angeles facility and across the nation. More specifically, Rosebrock highlights the poor treatment of homeless veterans in Los Angeles in light of the growing commercialization of the federally allocated land.

The Los Angeles National Veterans Park is home to a handful of facilities not geared towards veterans. The land hosts facilities such as “…a stadium for UCLA’s baseball team, an athletic complex for a nearby private prep school, a golf course, laundry facilities for a nearby Marriott hotel, storage and maintenance facilities for 20th Century Fox Television’s production sets, the Brentwood Theatre, soccer practice and match fields for a private girls’ soccer club, dog park, and a farmer’s market,” according to Judicial Watch. The Los Angeles property was deeded to the federal government in 1888 for the purpose of caring for disabled veterans, the organization says.

Judicial Watch is representing Rosebrock in the court case, United States of America v. Robert L. Rosebrock. If convicted, Rosebrock could face up to half a year in prison. Law enforcement officials are still prosecuting, even though VA officials previously granted Rosebrock permission to hang American flags on the fence – or at least to hang them right-side-up.

This is the not the first time that Rosebrock has conflicted with law enforcement.

Rosebrock was cited several times in 2010 for hanging the American flag. The difference is that back in 2010, Rosebrock hung the flag upside down. The practice, known to signal distress, was intended to bring greater attention to veterans issues.

The police didn’t like it, but the American Civil Liberties Union defended Rosebrock.

The VA office claimed that while Rosebrock can hang the American flag, it must be properly displayed and therefore was prohibited from hanging it upside down. The ACLU of Southern California argued that he could. A District Court judge ruled that the Veterans Administration violated the First Amendment rights of Rosebrock.

“The government cannot say it’s OK to hang the flag one way but not another just because the latter expresses a message that the government does not approve of” said Peter Eliasberg, a managing attorney on the 2010 case.