A rally by former prisoners-of-war Thursday in response to a flag-burning at Princeton University ended in a confrontation between the ex-POWs and one of the students who torched the flag in November.
The 40-minute rally, held by the New Jersey chapter of the American Association of ex-POWS, attracted about 100 people to the Cannon Green behind Nassau Hall, including Oleg Urminsky, one of two student flag-burners.Urminsky, a junior from Hawaii, along with fellow student, Dan Delaney, a sophomore from Albany, N.Y., staged the flag burning Nov. 9, to protest the new federal Flag Protection Act prohibiting the desecration of Old Glory.
Urminsky and Delaney maintain the law is an infringement of the First Amendment and the right of free speech.
The rally ended with a confrontation when ex-POW Clifford Larson attempted to punch Urminsky, who ducked and ran.
"Believe me, you burn this flag, I bury you right here," Larson said as others in the crowd restrained him.
"I am here to say what Old Glory means to me," ex-POW Otto Schwartz said earlier. "To see it desecrated by anyone causes me great pain."
Schwartz recalled his combat experiences as an 18-year-old in Southeast Asia during World War II. The ship on which he was stationed, the USS Houston, was sunk by the Japanese at the Sunda Straits, off Java.
"Our last look at the Stars and Stripes as we clung to floating wreckage was the flag still defiantly waving in the breeze from the ship's main mast," Schwartz told the crowd.
Schwartz, along with a number of survivors from the sunken ship, spent four years as prisoners of war in the Japanese camps.
"We were made aware of just how precious that symbol was as we started our new experience of losing all the freedoms it represented," Schwartz said. "Never would we entertain the thought of burning the flag we loved so dearly and for which we were willing to lay our lives on the line."