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Street vs. New York Flag-Burning Case collection, 1966-1972 (majority within 1966-1969)

.25 Linear Feet (One half-manuscript box, housing 11 folders)

This collection includes arrest papers, clippings, correspondence, photographs, and court records related to the case Street vs. New York. The Physical Evidence file contains remnants of the burned flag.

The Flag-Burning collection is comprised of court papers, correspondence, news articles, and pamphlets relating to the case known as Street vs. new York, including parts of the actual burned flag used as evidence in the court proceedings. Court papers chronicle the position of the prosecuting attorney, Harry Brodbar, including the transcripts of the actual trial and the arrest order. There are letters of support for Brodbar from William F. Buckly, Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine editor Paul W. Mills (Brodbar was a member of the VFW), and a member of the American Legion. Other items include newspaper clippings on the progress of the case, an issue of Legion magazine and photos of King County Asisstant District Attorney Harry Brodbar, and a flag burning event. A single autographed poster of an artist's interpretation of an American flag, which includes the signatures of Dave Dellinger, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Pat Paulsen, became the basis of a similar case involving a bookstore owner. It is the only expression of support on behalf of Street in this collection.

This case is a microcosmic study of how two conflicting forces- the Vietnam/Civil Rights movement on one hand and the conservative forces of law and order on the other, brought their grievances to the highest court in the land. The representations of the act of burning the flaf are a universal and enduring feature of protest. The act of burning a US flag by Sidney Street in itself is not unique-- that is to say it has happened before and certainly since-- however, the documentation of how a ruling on the act of protest through speech and symbolism took shape in the US Supreme Court has significant historical value. Although these are mostly papers from the prosecutor's files, this collection presents both sides of the legal argument in court. Moreover, Sidney Street is a representative, through this archival record, of a mass of 'average' US citizens who became fed up with war and inequality. This collection contributes to understanding the limits of authority and protest in public life and, as such, it is a very valuable resource for scholars of US law, civil rights, and the Vietnam War era.