County denies activist permit to burn Confederate-Nazi flag in York City

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Activist Gene Stilp (left) prepares to burn a hybrid Confederate-Nazi flag outside the Luzerne County courthouse Nov. 16, 2017. Stilp will bring the demonstration to York County on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. Photo courtesy of Gene Stilp.

A Harrisburg activist planning to burn a hybrid Confederate and Nazi flag in York City Wednesday, Nov. 29, has postponed his demonstration after being denied a permit by county officials.

Gene Stilp had hand-delivered a letter to York County Commissioners Nov. 22 requesting the permit to hold the 15-minute demonstration outside the county courthouse.

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Stilp, who has held similar flag-burning protests outside other county courthouses and at NASCAR races, received a letter from county solicitor Glenn Smith on Monday, Nov. 27, denying his request.

Smith's letter points to a county ordinance that requires "any person who desires to congregate, assemble or use county property" must make such request in a letter at least 60 days in advance of the desired time of use and with a check for $100.

In his denial letter, Smith adds that "any person or group who applies for permission and is declined permission to use County property, but nonetheless, in violation of that denial, enters upon that county property to use the same shall be deemed a defiant trespasser and may be prosecuted for that crime."

The letter also was forwarded to the York City Police Department.

The ordinance Smith references was enacted in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to place restrictions on use of county property by individuals or groups "likely to create clear and present danger to the public safety and welfare."

The ordinance states that county properties will be closed to people or groups found to present clear and present danger to the public during a Homeland Advisory System of yellow or higher by the director of the Department of Homeland Security.

The department replaced its color-coded alert system in 2011, according to the department website.

Stilp sent a follow-up letter to commissioners Wednesday hoping to work with the commissioners and sheriff's department to conduct his demonstration in the safest manner possible and in an area designated by the commissioners.

Stilp suggested the commissioners reach out to their fellow county commissioners in Columbia, Perry, Luzerne, Adams, Union and Northumberland counties, where he's already held similar protests.

Stilp postponed his demonstration until next week, according to a news release.