In observance of Flag Day on Thursday, Ald. James Balcer, 11th, will show his respect for the American flag by burning thousands of them in a massive public disposal ceremony.
The South Side alderman has organized the event for five years as a way for people to properly dispose of worn and unserviceable American, city of Chicago, and prisoner of war and missing in action flags.
"If it's not the largest Flag Day ceremony in the country, I would be surprised," Balcer said. "We've had up to 5,000 flags."
Worn-out flags from city buildings, as well as from individuals, are collected and brought to the former Stockyards site. The flags are placed in boxes, lowered into a trench and "respectfully" burned with supervision from firefighters, the alderman said. The ashes are then buried.
Thursday's ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at 1439 W. 41st St.
Large-scale disposal ceremonies are common on Flag Day, said Hugh Brady, president of the North American Vexillological Association, an organization of people who study flags. He said disposal ceremonies can help casual observers tell the difference between a respectful and an antagonistic flag burning.
"Burning a flag is a sign of respect, but it's also a sign of political protest," he said.
The U.S. Flag Code, which Congress adopted in 1942, gives guidelines for disposing of a flag, saying it should be done in a respectful manner, Brady said. Burning is the typical method, he said.
Balcer said he helped introduce a city ordinance allowing for libraries, police stations and fire stations to serve as drop-off locations for unserviceable flags.
"I've always loved the American flag," said Balcer, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. "One of the things that was troubling to me was when I saw a tattered and worn American flag."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times