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Flag mistake fuels anger

Neighbor decries 'assault against America'

Posted: December 10, 2008 9:40 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2008 4:59 a.m.
Alfredo Herrera had no idea what he'd gotten himself into when he hung an upside-down electric American flag Dec. 1 as part of his holiday light display.

Herrera said the matter was an accident.

Les Armbruster, who lives around the corner, said it was an "assault against America."

Herrera returned to his Vilna Avenue home from work that Monday to a helpful neighbor who told him the flag above Herrera's front window was upside down.

But Herrera's 14-year-old daughter heard a couple walk by their house and yell, "You stupid Mexicans, why are you here? Go back to where you came from! Why are you even putting an American flag outside your house?"

Armbruster, 55, said he and his wife are the couple the daughter heard.

"We just said, ‘Go home if you hate America,'" Armbruster said. "We walked by and saw the flag upside down and I'm like, ‘whoa.' And I knew that was a Mexican family and so, I'm like, ‘Wow, that takes balls to do something like that.'"

Herrera said if he had realized he'd hung the flag upside down, he would have fixed it right away.

Herrera's family has lived in their Canyon Country home for three-and-a-half years without any problems - until now.

Herrera and his wife were born in Mexico and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years. His daughter was born in the U.S.

Armbruster never met the Herreras but he said he "knew it had to be an assault against America because of who they are. They have six trucks in their driveway. They have to be illegals because only illegals would have that many cars. There are normal Mexicans around here who have two or three. They have nice trucks and a nice home. Why would they insult where they are living?"

On Wednesday night, Herrera's house had a string of lights and no flag. He decided to take the flag down so as to not cause any more problems.

His intention was just to put the flag up and unfortunately he made a mistake and now he feels bad, he said.

Don Samora, who lives across the street from Herrera, said he was "taken aback" to learn the "mistake" was taken so seriously.

"This man (Herrera) has no problem with the States and he just made a mistake," Samora said. "Around here we put our lights up right after Thanksgiving, and maybe he thought he was lagging. I saw him rush to put his lights up and so I'm sure it was just a mistake. I don't want any of my neighbors to think he did this intentionally."

Armbruster said he didn't address the family directly because he doesn't speak Spanish and he was "really irritated" to see someone desecrating, "those who fought for the flag."

He also doesn't believe it was a mistake.

"Why is it not up if it was a mistake?" he asked. "My wife was quite (upset) and she searched to see if there's some sort of penalty for assaulting America with such a statement. So she looked up and found a profile of how to display the flag. So we printed that out and we taped it on their mailbox to let them know how to hang a flag."

Samora did not agree with Armbruster's confrontational tactics and neither did Herrera.

"We should not judge or send a lynch mob right away when someone does something like that. We need to address it," Samora said. "If we're afraid to knock on their door, then maybe we should go to a neighbor and ask them to help."


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