Iberville Parish Council unanimously votes to outlaw desecration of flags despite roadblocks

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

IBERVILLE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Iberville Parish Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, approving an ordinance to outlaw the desecration of any official flags in the parish.

The ordinance will protect the American flag, the Louisiana state flag, and any official flags of Iberville Parish. Council members say this law will apply to unincorporated parts of the parish.

Vietnam veteran, Walter Cochran, was on a mission Tuesday, hoping to fight back in order to uphold the ban. "It should be approved because it shouldn't be desecrated like that," said Cochran.

His input, though, was not needed. No one spoke during the public comment portion either for or against the measure and the decision was seemingly decided upon prior to the vote.

Council chairman, Matthew Jewell, calls the ordinance a way to show support to area veterans and to respect what the flag represents. "It's to honor our veterans and I guess it's mostly symbolic to us because we are a very patriotic parish," said Jewell.

Jewell says there was no public opposition to the law at the meeting and adds the ordinance will go into effect in 30 days, leaving it up to the sheriff's office to enforce. When asked whether council members had spoken with the sheriff's office about enforcement, the answer was surprising. "No," Jewell admitted. "We have not discussed it with the sheriff."

Enforcement issues are not the only roadblock for the new law. In 1984, a protest in Texas where flags were burned led to a legal challenge that ended with a landmark Supreme Court decision, Texas v. Johnson, which calls laws prohibiting the practice unconstitutional, despite distaste from the public.

WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Jewell if he believes the Iberville Parish Council supersedes the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. "Absolutely not," Jewell responded.

Jewell says they are still moving forward with the plan, despite those factors.

Penalties for violating the law could range from a $1,000 fine to a 6-month jail sentence, or both.

There is already a flag desecration ordinance in the federal United States Code of Laws, as well as the state of Louisiana Revised Statutes.

Jewell says the ordinance came about after he made a promise to U.S. military veterans in attendance at an event for veterans in the parish and that it had absolutely nothing to do with recent controversy over protests at NFL games and other sporting events across the country.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso, Jr. still has to sign off on the plan before it takes effect. He has the option to veto the measure, though based on his comments at Tuesday's meeting, that seems very unlikely to happen.

Prior to Tuesday's vote, the ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter urging the parish council to oppose the ordinance.

During the packed meeting, small flags were placed at each of the council members' seats.

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