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August 5, 2013

Step Back in Time: Aug. 5, 2013

Step Back in Time features news items from The Daily Star 25 and 50 years ago.

25 years ago

Aug. 5, 1988

Oneonta resident Frank Gray said he did not mean to offend anyone when he painted the letter A to a United States flag and hung it in a side window of his house.

Gray was charged by city police last week with displaying a defaced American flag after an unidentified caller tipped them off.

“I’m more than willing to make a public apology” for putting up the flag, he said Thursday.

It was purely an artistic act, he said. He chose the letter A because it is the first letter of the alphabet. Also it is a positive letter, Gray said. As a Buddhist, he said he is familiar with Hindu concepts beginning with the letter. The word Atman is one example that has to do with the concept of reaching total consciousness as a human being, he said.

Gray, 22, an artist and poet, is a member of a newly formed group known as Beat Garden, a community for spiritual and artistic freedom, whose headquarters is Gray’s house at 170 Chestnut St.

Police had said they thought the letter may have been drawn in protest of the United States’ position on apartheid in South Africa. 

Gray did not deny or affirm that the letter stood for apartheid.

He was charged under the state’s general business law, section 136-A, which forbids the exhibition or display of the flag in which any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawing or any advertisement is placed or caused to be placed on it.

The charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum one year in jail and $1,000 fine, according to Otsego County Public Defender Richard Rothermel.

Gray will answer the charge in Oneonta City Court Aug. 10. He said he is not sure yet whether he will challenge it.

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