“Burn the flags”: controversy in Wilkes-Barre leads to threatening messages

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — There’s a bit of controversy and concern flying in front of the Volunteers of America building in Wilkes-Barre.

They’re still getting harassing calls stemming from a social media post on Thursday about the flags they have on display. This is not just an office building, it’s home for many young people who are coming from difficult situations.

The organization’s president tells Eyewitness News local authorities are looking into some of the more threatening calls and messages they received.

Volunteers of America Pennsylvania president, Jodina Hicks, says they had to relocate their young adult residents for the weekend out of concern for their safety. Hicks says the office on River Street is being bombarded with harassing phone calls and messages.

She says Friday afternoon people drove by yelling profanities at them.

“Later, people came to the location peering in the windows, walking around to the back,” Hicks said.

Thursday, Dwayne McDavitt posted a picture of the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride banners displayed at the VOA office, calling BLM a “hate, racist and terror organization” and encouraged people to call VOA and ask why they’re not flying an American flag.

His post has almost 200 shares and more than a thousand comments, many of which Hicks found alarming.

“The concerning posts and calls have been the threats, we received. We saw a post that called for people to come and burn the flags as they were hanging there, so that of course is highly alarming,” Hicks said.

Some demanded they take down the BLM and pride flags and replace them with an American flag.

“This is Volunteers of America and it should represent the United States, especially if you’re receiving funds from our government,” Martin Dartoe of Wilkes-Barre said.

Hicks says they displayed the BLM and pride flags at the request of their young residents who live in transitional housing on location, 95 percent of whom fall under the categories they represent, according to Hicks.

“The last thing they need is harassment, and the second to last thing they need to be told is to take down the flags that they want to fly to signify safety and to signify pride in who they are,” Hicks said.

McDavitt was not available for comment Wednesday night. Hicks says they plan to fly an American flag again. Until then, they still have it in their logo and the one flying at their Harrisburg headquarters.

Non-profits like Volunteers of America are not required to fly the American flag, unlike government buildings, schools, or polling places.

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