THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Federal Court Rules Flag Was Okay
Issue Date: June 12, 2013
On Tuesday, May 28, almost exactly four years after it became an issue in Crivitz, a Federal Judge in the United States District Court of Eastern District Wisconsin ruled that Vito Congine had a right to fly his United States flag upside down as a protest statement, and Crivitz police erred in confiscating the flag shortly before the annual Independence Day Parade on July 4, 2009.
Congine, a former Marine, said at the time that an upside down flag is a recognized military symbol of distress, and he was flying it that way on his downtown Crivitz property to express distress over his treatment at the hands of the Crivitz Village Board.
According to court documents, the Crivitz Police Chief (Mike Frievalt), after getting advice from Marinette County District Attorney Allen Brey, entered Congines property without a warrant and removed the flag. Frievalt maintained he had received many complaints from citizens, mainly members of the American Legion, and as the crowd gathered became afraid things would get out of control. He then, with the help of Officer Craig Kasten, removed the flag.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Congine later brought a lawsuit against the village and Brey. Congine charged his Constitutional rights were violated, and in the May 28 ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge William Griesbach agreed, at least in part. In a 21-page ruling, he found that the village had violated Congines rights, but Brey, because he provided only advice, had qualified immunity from liability.
The next step in the case could be a trial to determine the amount of damages due to Congine, unless he and the village settle.
Congine said after he and his wife, Trudy, spent $100,000 to remodel the former Pelkins Supermarket Building in downtown Crivitz the village board reversed its previous encouragement and denied them a license.
Eventually the couple lost everything in bankruptcy, Congine said. They are now living in Naples, Florida.