Belfast Telegraph

Three teens in court over alleged Facebook poppy burning picture

Fanning the flames: the image of teenagers burning a poppy
Fanning the flames: the image of teenagers burning a poppy

By Patrice Dougan

Three teenagers have appeared in court over the alleged burning of a Remembrance Day poppy.

Two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old were charged with incitement to hatred when they appeared before magistrates in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.

The youngest of the trio was also charged with improper use of the public electronic communications network.

The three were arrested by members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) after a photograph showing two teenagers burning a poppy was posted on a social networking site.

A PSNI spokesman said police became aware of the existence of certain material on social media networks on Tuesday.

A number of arrests were made and all three were brought before the court on Wednesday.

"Individuals should be mindful of the content of any material they upload onto social media networks," he added.

The photograph sparked outrage on the internet and saw insults and threats exchanged.

Both the photograph and a subsequent page, labelling the pair as “poppy burning scumbags”, have now been taken down.

The pair — seen grinning and watching the poppy burn — posted the image on Facebook.

The image quickly sparked a flood of angry messages and a new page ‘Poppy burning scumbags Coleraine’ received 500 comments from those opposed to it.

Insults were exchanged and threats of violence hurled as the two boys came online and defended their actions.

Dervock Royal British Legion member, Steven Phillips, was shown the “abhorrent” photo by his son and immediately telephoned police.

He said the two boys were “sticking two fingers up to the whole of society” by their actions, which he said constituted a hate crime.

“There’s people from this province that lay down their lives, so I think they deserve a bit of respect,” he said.

“It wasn’t just Protestants that died in the field in the First and Second World Wars, there were Catholic soldiers, Hindus, Muslims, people from all religions. All creeds and colours fought for the British Army, so to turn it around like this and use it as a sectarian tool is an absolutely horrendous thing for anybody to even consider, let alone do.”

He said the whole community had been “up in arms” at the photograph, and praised the police for their quick action in making the arrests after a complaint was made.

“I hope they throw the book at them because this is abhorrent,” he said.

“It’s coming up to Remembrance Day and to take pictures of you burning a poppy and put them on Facebook, I think the whole community, whether they support Poppy Day or not, would be appalled by this.”

Background

Islamic extremist Emdadur Choudhury was fined for burning a poppy at a Muslims Against Crusades protest staged on Remembrance Sunday last year. Choudhury was found guilty of a “calculated and deliberate” insult to the war dead and those who mourn them when he set fire to two large plastic poppies during a two-minute period of silence.

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