Update, June 13: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday morning that it had dropped all felony charges against Segin, and will move forward with misdemeanor charges only.
An 18-year-old woman who attempted to burn a “thin blue line” flag at Philly’s Pride Parade was released from custody, after spending nearly 30 hours in prison, Philadelphia Prisons Dept. spokesperson Shawn Hawes said.
Identified by police as Ryan Segin of Woodbine, N.J., the woman, who uses ReeAnna as her name, per PMN), was arrested Sunday, June 10, around noon at 12th and Locust, just as the annual LGBT festivities were kicking off.
The details of the case — and the way it was handled — inspired backlash from groups across the political spectrum.
Some of the outcry was the result of a mistake in the first statement sent out by the Philadelphia Police about the arrest. In a media release Monday, the PPD wrote Segin was attempting to set “an American Flag” on fire. This was pounced on by ultra-right national news outlets like Drudge Report, which blasted out the news.
Within a few minutes, however, the PPD sent a corrected statement. The flag on which the burning was attempted was not a regular flag but instead a “thin blue line American Flag.”
An important detail, optics-wise, since the “thin blue line” flag is not the classic stars and stripes.
Also known as the Blue Lives Matter flag, it stands for “the sacrifice law enforcement officers of this nation make each day.” It looks like a monochrome American flag with (you guessed it) a thin blue line across its midsection.
If Segin was being charged additionally with desecration, it wouldn’t matter which flag she attempted to burn.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that burning the American flag is legal because it is a symbolic act protected by the First Amendment. States have their own rules regarding treatment of the flag. In Pennsylvania, there are two criminal laws concerning it. One prohibits “desecration,” but explicitly exempts any political demonstration. Under this law, the “thin blue line flag” is a mutilation of the national flag. The second law prohibits “malicious insults” to the American flag — which, under this law, the “thin blue line flag” is not.
So a desecration charge for Segin would be a “clear violation of the First Amendment,” according to Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of PA.
However, desecration charges have not been leveled.
Instead, per the PPD, Segin was arrested for attempting to commit arson, risking a catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person.
The District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday morning announced it was dropping all felony charges against Segin — the arson and catastrophe ones — and moving forward only with misdemeanors. Segin will be charged with reckless endangerment and possession of an instrument of crime.
Segin’s supporters, including the Philadelphia LGBT Affairs Director Amber Hikes, the Philly Socialists and the Philly for REAL Justice coalition, helped raise money for her bail and to assist with pending legal charges or housing displacement. Per a thread of comments on Facebook, Segin may be getting “kicked out” of her household “after this” because she was living with a parent.
Supporters are also upset about which jail Segin was taken to — she is trans, they have clarified, and identifies as female.
Moreover, Officer Tanya Little confirmed to Billy Penn, she was being held at Curran Fromhold Correctional-Facility, a 24-hour intake facility for adult males.
Detaining trans women at all-male correctional facilities has been found to expose them to physical and mental risks.