War protester sets flag on fire
MURRIETA: Lee Henry Vollick, 19, is attacked by concertgoers, then arrested, his mother says.
11:14 PM PDT on Sunday, July 3, 2005
By SARAH BURGE / The Press-Enterprise
MURRIETA - After a 19-year-old war protester set fire to an American flag at the Murrieta city birthday bash Saturday evening, angry bystanders attacked him before he could say a word, his mother said Sunday.
Police said Lee Henry Vollick, of Murrieta, set an American flag ablaze around 7:55 p.m. in the middle of a crowded concert at the California Oaks Sports Park.
The protester's mother, Barbara Vollick, said her son was trying to make a statement against the war in Iraq, not against the United States.
"He's just a college student being crazy," she said.
Murrieta police Sgt. Dennis Vrooman said, "He was basically a one-man demonstration."
He was trying to get others to join him, Vrooman said, "but he wasn't getting any cooperation."
Vollick said her son was upset about President Bush's speech on Iraq last week.
"He's very angry that our young men are dying," Vollick said.
"He didn't even get to say anything," she said, alleging that about a half-dozen people attacked him and pulled the flag away. One man punched him in the face, she said.
Vollick said Sunday her son wasn't in any condition to speak with the press.
"He's actually in a lot of pain right now." She said his face was cut, his neck and back were hurt, and he had welts on his wrists from handcuffs police placed on him when he was arrested.
Vollick was up all night in jail, she said, and he wasn't released until nearly 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
According to a police news release, a Murrieta police officer approached Vollick because the fire posed a hazard to the crowd. The fire burned out quickly, but the officer tried to grab Vollick anyway.
Vollick resisted and tried to break away from his grasp, the release said. With the help of several bystanders, including two off-duty Murrieta police officers, the officer brought Vollick to the ground.
Vollick was arrested on suspicion of resisting a police officer, disturbing a public assembly and inciting a riot. Vollick's mother said he was just trying to stand up, not fight the officers.
"He was yelling, 'You're hurting me,' " she said. "He has a bad back."
Vrooman said, "From my understanding, there were quite a few people in the crowd who were displeased at what he was doing." When the police took the teen him away, Vrooman said, "people applauded."
Vollick said her son was a student at Mt. San Jacinto College for a semester and a half, but had to take time off for health reasons.
She said he had planned to go back to school in August or join the Navy.
"He loves the military," Vollick said, adding that he was a Young Marine for two years when they lived in San Diego. "He wants to serve his country, but he doesn't want to kill people."
Reach Sarah Burge at (951) 368-9642 or email@example.com
Flag-burning called a safety concern
ARREST: The war protester's message had nothing to do with their actions, authorities say.
11:29 PM PDT on Tuesday, July 5, 2005
By JOHN ASBURY / The Press-Enterprise
Lee Henry Vollick's only regret about setting fire to an American flag in Murrieta over the weekend was not being able to deliver his message.
Vollick, 19, was arrested after burning the flag Saturday evening during Murrieta's 14th Birthday Bash at Cal Oaks Sports Park. According to police, the charges were suspicion of obstructing and resisting a police officer, disturbing a public assembly, and incitement to riot.
Upset with the war in Iraq, Vollick said that after burning the flag, he planned to tell people that the war was wrong and soldiers shouldn't be dying for oil.
John Asbury / The Press-Enterprise
"I wanted a catalyst for my protest, and burning the flag got people's attention," says Lee Henry Vollick, of Murrieta, who set fire to an American Flag at Murrieta's 14th Birthday Bash on July 2. Vollick has bruises on his arms and wrists from the struggle with police and the crowd.
Shortly before 8 p.m., Vollick said, he squatted before the sprawled-out flag and set it on fire with a cigarette lighter. As the flag was smoldering, a Murrieta police officer asked him to step aside, and he refused, he said in an interview Tuesday.
That's when a police officer, two off-duty officers and several civilians converged on him.
That image left his mother, Barbara Vollick, shaking her head.
"How ironic: While we're celebrating freedom and practicing our rights, he's told he doesn't have those rights," she said.
But police say Vollick's message had nothing to do with their actions.
"The main concern was the safety of the people around him," Murrieta police Sgt. Larry Preston said. "The flag was not an issue. He was burning it in an area that presented a danger to others."
Police reported that Vollick attempted to break free from the officer's hold and several angry bystanders and two off-duty police officers brought him to the ground.
Vollick said while he was on his stomach, he didn't know who was on top of him. He said police and the angry crowd surrounded him and someone had a knee to his back and his head.
Three days later Vollick has bruises to his biceps and welts around his wrists.
"If he resists like he did, that's going to happen," Preston said. "It could have come from police or a citizen; it can't be identified to one individual."
Vollick said he doesn't hate America but is upset with how the government has handled the war. He said he is grateful for his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
"I wanted a catalyst for my protest, and burning the flag got people's attention," Vollick said. "I have no resentment at this country; I just oppose some actions the government takes."
Vollick said he is planning more protests but is done with flag burning.
The district attorney's office has not received the case from police, so charges are pending.
The flag is being held as evidence.
Reach John Asbury at (951) 375-3727 or at firstname.lastname@example.org