ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The man accused of using a flamethrower to set fire to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida, was arrested Thursday, police said.
The 19-year-old Tampa man, who is Black, was booked into the Pinellas County jail on a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge, according to jail records. Officials have also initiated the process for a risk protection order on the man.
Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s St. Petersburg headquarters Saturday morning, removing a flamethrower from the trunk and shooting a tower of fire at the flag flying about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The group says the man stopped when a worker inside the building yelled at him. The video shows him putting the flamethrower back in the trunk and then driving away. A photo supplied by the group shows the flag with a large hole.
After his arrest, the man told investigators that he burned the flag because he doesn’t like socialists and did not like seeing the “ugly flag” while driving to and from work every day, according to a St. Petersburg police report. Officials said the car in the surveillance video belonged to the man.
The Uhuru Movement is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, which says it is “uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.”