Dispute Over Flag Protest Erupts In Wisc. Village

An American flag flown upside down as a protest in a northern Wisconsin village was seized by police before a Fourth of July parade and the businessman who flew it — an Iraq war veteran — claims the officers trespassed and stole his property.

A day after the parade, police returned the flag and the man's protest — over a liquor license — continued.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin is considering legal action against the village of Crivitz for violating Vito Congine Jr.'s' First Amendment rights, Executive Director Chris Ahmuty said.

"It is not often that you see something this blatant," Ahmuty said.

In mid-June, Congine, 46, began flying the flag upside down — an accepted way to signal distress — outside the restaurant he wants to open in Crivitz, a village of about 1,000 people some 65 miles north of Green Bay.

He said his distress is likely bankruptcy because the village board refused to grant him a liquor license after he spent nearly $200,000 to buy and remodel a downtown building for an Italian supper club.

Congine's upside-down-flag represents distress to him; to others in town, it represents disrespect of the flag.

Hours before a Fourth of July parade, four police officers went to Congine's property and removed the flag under the advice of Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey.

Neighbor Steven Klein watched in disbelief.

"I said, 'What are you doing?' Klein said. "They said, 'It is none of your business.'"

The next day, police returned the flag.

Brey declined comment Friday.

Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula said it was not illegal to fly the flag upside down but people were upset and it was the Fourth of July.

"It is illegal to cause a disruption," he said.

The parade went on without any problems, Kanikula said.

Village President John Deschane, 60, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said many people in town believe it's disrespectful to fly the flag upside down.

"If he wants to protest, let him protest but find a different way to do it," Deschane said.

Congine, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq in 2004, said he intends to keep flying the flag upside down.

"It is pretty bad when I go and fight a tyrannical government somewhere else," Congine said, "and then I come home to find it right here at my front door."


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by hope Location: NC on Jul 12, 2009 at 03:08 AM
    MrT, A case Al & Jesse could likely win. heehee
  • by Anonymous on Jul 12, 2009 at 03:06 AM
    He's got a point, and obviously knows how to get attention for his cause. I am guessing his liquor license will be granted. Yet, if so many are offended by his tactics, he may still eventually file for bankruptcy.
  • by Paul Location: NC on Jul 11, 2009 at 12:56 PM
    The flag flown upside down is a sign of distress in a life or death sitution not a sign of failure. If you have got to have a liquor license to stay in business get a bar. And stop flying the flag upsidedown!!!
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Jul 11, 2009 at 12:09 PM
    He should sue the DA and the Police Dept. for violating his Civil rights. Where is Al and Jesse to stand up for this man's Civil Rights? As far as him not being Patriotic, how about our useless President's decision to order the Pentagon to refuse permission for a USAF aircraft to do a flyover at the "God and Country" celebration in Idaho.
  • by MAL Location: Pennsylvania on Jul 11, 2009 at 09:41 AM
    We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” ~ Thomas Jefferson “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.” - Thomas Jefferson
  • by MAL Location: Pennsylvania on Jul 11, 2009 at 09:35 AM
    If we allow these trespasses against our rights to go unchallenged, they will only become more frequent & more severe.
  • by Meredith Location: Roper on Jul 11, 2009 at 06:38 AM
    First Amendment - symbolic freedom of speech. He could sue and win if so inclined.
  • by Anonymous on Jul 11, 2009 at 04:46 AM
    While I disagree with the town's decision to forcefully remove the flag, I also disagree with the resturant owner. If his business is going to fail due to the lack of a liquor license and it is supposedly a resturant, his business model needs alot of work before it could ever be profitable. 80-90% of his profit should be coming from the food that his resturant prepares, and the other 10-20% should be coming from tip's and alcoholic drinks. The town needs a new mayor and the resturant owner needs a new business.
  • by Chris Location: Greenville on Jul 11, 2009 at 03:22 AM
    Well I certainly do not agree with the town on this one, the man was doing nothing illegal or "disruptive" other than plucking a few nerves! Evidently he hit the right nerve huh? On a good note, the man can now get his 20,000 dollars back PLUS a few hundred more thousand, Open a nice resturant in a NICE town all on the money that the town will have to pay!
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Jul 11, 2009 at 02:40 AM
    I guess it's OK for war protesters to burn and dessicrate the flag but not use it as free speech to indicate your distress. Oh yeah, this is a part of the country full of libtards. But waht are you to do when "jack-booted thugs" have control? Zieg Heil!
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