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Occupy member who helped burn U.S. flags explains actions to group


This news story was published on December 31, 2011.
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By Elisabeth Arriero and Steve Lyttle, McClatchy Newspapers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An Occupy Charlotte member who was jailed after helping burn two U.S. flags told other members late Friday that while he’s sorry for the trouble it may have caused the movement, he’s not sorry for what he did.

“Those were actions taken on my own behalf,” Alex Tyler said at a camp meeting. “I did it to display my utter contempt for American greed, not (the military).”

Tyler, 19, of Fort Mill was among four Charlotte-area men charged Friday when police say they burned two U.S. flags at the organization’s camp site in the uptown area. Two were members of the Occupy Charlotte group.

Burning a U.S. flag is not against the law, but police said the four were charged with careless use of a fire because they didn’t use a fire pit.

Police also charged Jason Bargert, 28, of Charlotte; Michael Behrle, 23, of Matthews; and Stephen Morris, 20, of Matthews. Bargert has been identified as a spokesman for Occupy Charlotte.

Tyler told Occupy Charlotte members Friday that he’d met the three other men about 12:30 a.m. Friday.

“I’ve seen this group lose its activism and become lazy,” said Tyler, adding that the other men told him, “We’re going to give Occupy Charlotte a wake up call.”

According to a police report, officers spotted a fire being set about 12:30 a.m. near the movement’s site.

That site is a few hundred feet from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police headquarters, and officers have kept a close eye on the group since it pitched tents in front of the old city hall on Sept. 17.

All four men have been released from jail on the misdemeanor charge. Bargert posted a $1,000 bond. The others posted $500 bonds.

The flag burning led at least 10 Occupy Charlotte members to issue a statement, formally disassociating the movement from the camp at the old city hall.

The flag-burning has created a divide within the movement, as evident by the meeting Friday night.

Some members condemned the acts as “hideous” “shocking” and “disrespectful.”

And a few threatened to leave the camp if the four men weren’t kicked out.

“I’m done,” said Deanna St. Aubin Bridgewood, who put her name on the statement. “If they’re not even going to expel them, that’s ridiculous.”

As of late Friday, the Occupy members hadn’t decided whether to kick out the four men.

Gifford Cordova lamented that the flag burnings reflected poorly on the movement. “They did it in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping,” he said.

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