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Olympics fan threatened with arrest for wearing US flag

Wearing an American flag apparently was an offence that could get you arrested late last Friday night on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver.

In a video taken by a Vancouver-based journalist and posted on YouTube, several police officers surround a man with the stars and stripes draped over his shoulders. They tell him to put away his flag and, after a strained conversation, he complies. As the police move on, in a dismayed voice the man declares that he lives in Vancouver and loves Canada, even though he roots for the U.S. hockey team and just wants to "fly my colours."

Joshua Hergesheimer is the journalist who caught the footage as he followed a cluster of police officers moving through the rowdy crowd on Granville at 1:28 a.m. early Saturday morning, after Canada's men's hockey team had defeated Slovakia to set up a gold medal final against the U.S. The officers, Hergesheimer told The Tyee in a phone interview, "just kept going on at this guy. It just seemed like they were trying to intimidate him into putting [the flag] away. And eventually he does put it away."

On the tape, Hergesheimer then asks the man "What was that about?"

"They told me I had to put my American flag away," the man replies. "I love Canada. I live in Canada. I live here in Vancouver. I'm from California. I love America, too. I love the whole world. I just want to fly my colours. They told me I had to put it away or I would start a fight, and they would arrest me for breach of peace." The man also claims "I work for the Olympics."

After a bit, a friend of the man moves into the frame to state, "F*** Canada." The man tells his friend "No, no, no, we love Canada." But his friend adds "After the shit I just went through from the Canadian police, f*** Canada."

Below the video posted on YouTube, a person identifying himself as "the guy in the video" posts this comment:

"It was an unbelievable scene. I definitely felt for the Vancouver police. Downtown was madness and they had their hands full, but I never once felt threatened while I was walking through the streets. Canadians are the nicest people I have ever met. I'd also like to apologize for my friend's comment at the end of the video . . . he was very drunk and I assure you he loves Canada as much as I do. Thanks again for putting this up!"

However the profile of the person posting that remark gives his age as 59, and the person in the video appears to be in his 20s. The Tyee tried to contact the man through the YouTube comment but so far there has been no reply to our email.

A different person commenting on the YouTube video said:

"Man, i feel so bad for you. The RCMP have an tendency to abuse their power but i guess they don't wanna have to deal with a potential fight. But the threatening to arrest you part was uncalled for. Canadians are kind people and we would never start a fight just cuz we see an american flag, that would just be a disgrace to Canada"

Another wrote:

"I'm Canadian and I wore an American flag down Granville Friday night with a friend of mine just to see how the crowd would react too 2 Amercians chanting USA USA USA! SUNDAY WE STEAL CANADAS GOLD! We had police tell us too just keep walking and another cop told us we were brave. As for the crowd? We got hugs and some high fives, people YELLED O'CANADA as loud as they could and blew horns in our ears. one sad f***er in the crowd put his cigarette butt in my friends flag."

On the video, as they approach the man wearing the flag, the police officers can be heard saying, more than once, "We're trying to help you."

The man responds: "Everyone is being very nice."

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