A 74-year-old Army veteran is set to appear in federal court next month for hanging American flags and taking photos outside a Los Angeles Veterans Affairs facility.
Vietnam-era veteran Robert Rosebrock began hanging American flags outside the Los Angeles VA’s National Veterans Home on Memorial Day in 2015 to honor the nation’s fallen veterans.
His flag memorial remained on display without incident until October of that year, when VA officials decided his display was forbidden by a law governing “security and law enforcement at VA facilities.”
VA police officers informed the veteran that he would need to remove the flag because it violated a section of the law prohibiting the distribution of “handbills” on VA property.
From the law: “The distributing of materials such as pamphlets, handbills, and/or flyers, and the displaying of placards or posting of materials on bulletin boards or elsewhere on property is prohibited, except as authorized by the head of the facility or designee or when such distributions or displays are conducted as part of authorized Government activities.”
Rosebrock refused to remove his display.
The veteran’s decision was rooted in patriotism; but it also had a little to do with a protest against the VA’s failure to use the 388-acre property on which the Los Angeles VA facility sits to the benefit of American veterans.
As Judicial Watch, which is assisting in Rosebrock’s defense, reported:
Since 2008, Rosebrock and a group of fellow veterans have assembled at the gate weekly and on Memorial Day to protest the VA’s failure to make full use of the property to benefit veterans, particularly those who are homeless.
The parcel was deeded to the federal government in 1888 for the specific purpose of caring for disabled veterans. Though it includes the veterans’ homey, the property is also used for a number of unrelated causes. Among them is a stadium for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) baseball team, an athletic complex for a nearby private high school, laundry facilities for a local hotel, storage and maintenance of production sets for 20th Century Fox Television, the Brentwood Theatre, soccer practice and match fields for a private girls’ soccer club, a dog park, and a farmer’s market.
The veteran has been something of a thorn in the side of the VA facility for his efforts to force the federal entity to boot non-veteran facilities from the property in order to make space for housing and other resources for homeless vets in the area.
Last year, after years of activism from Rosebrock and other area vets, the VA facility announced a plan to move forward with a short-term housing complex on the property.
But Rosebrock told the Los Angeles Times in January that the VA was simply attempting to placate activists while continuing to allow outside entities to exploit the resources.
“Contrary to an exit, the illegal agreements were renegotiated to make them ‘legal,’ and the non-veteran occupants get to stay while our homeless veterans remain on skid row and back-alley squalor,” he said.
After the 2015 flag incident, Rosebrock continued to refuse to comply with the VA’s demands that he stop displaying American flags on VA property. He was subsequently cited at least 15 times for his refusals—but the charges were always dropped.
That changed on Memorial Day last year, when officers hit the activist for displaying two small American flags outside the facilities fence. He’s also being criminally prosecuted for taking photographs of fellow activists and a VA police officer.
In convicted, the veteran could spend up to six months in jail. That’s despite the actions behind both charges falling well within the protections on the 1st Amendment.
Judicial Watch is asking the Trump administration to unravel the retaliatory abuse of the veteran.
“The federal government’s pursuit of these vindictive charges against Mr. Rosebrock is mind-blowing,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Why in the world would the feds prosecute a 74-year-old veteran over the placement of two small American Flags at the entrance to a park honoring veterans on Memorial Day? Frankly, President Trump should ask why the VA and his Justice Department are trying to jail this American patriot.”
The organization reports that its various attempts to reach Attorney General Jeff Sessons to inquire why the federal government continues to waste taxpayer dollars on the prosecution have been unsuccessful.
Rosebrock is ordered to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim in a Los Angeles Federal Court on March 7.
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