Robert Rosebrock: ACLU Sues VA Over Free Speech Rights

ACLU/SC Sues Veteran’s Affairs Department for Denying Free Speech Rights to Veteran

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California sued the Veteran’s Administration today for denying a 67-year-old Army veteran his free-speech right to protest the agency’s failure to use part of its property in west Los Angeles for the benefit and care of veterans, particularly those who are homeless.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of Robert Rosebrock, who along with other veterans has protested the VA’s land-use policies every Sunday since March 9, 2008. As part of their protest, Rosebrock often displays the American flag upside down on a fence outside VA property as a distress symbol to draw attention to their cause. On Feb. 28, VA police demanded that he remove the flag, and when Rosebrock refused, they removed it themselves. A week earlier, VA police had allowed Rosebrock to display the flag right side up at the same site.

”The VA has shown a basic misunderstanding of the meaning of the First Amendment of the Constitution, the very document that Mr. Rosebrock and other veterans have served in the military to protect” said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney and Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights at the ACLU/SC.

The recent harassment of Rosebrock by VA police continues a campaign by the VA of selective enforcement against him depending on how he displays the flag during his protests. For 66 weeks in a row, Rosebrock hung the flag right side up without any interference from the VA police. However, after he started hanging the flag upside down in June 2009, he was quickly cited six times for “unauthorized demonstration or service in a national cemetery or on other VA property.” Rosebrock also received an e-mail from Lynn Carrier, associate director of the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, which said in part that he and his fellow demonstrators “may not attach the American flag, upside down, in VA property including our perimeter gates.”

The VA eventually dismissed the citations against Rosebrock, but the recent action of the VA police in removing a flag that Rosebrock had hung upside down makes it clear that the agency’s unconstitutional policy of denying him his free speech rights continues.

The VA complex was specifically deeded to the United States in 1888 as a home for disabled veterans. Rosebrock and his fellow veterans demonstrate in front of a portion of the complex that the VA is planning to lease for use as a public park. Another portion of the land is now leased to a nearby private school for tennis courts, which veterans are not allowed to access. Other buildings on the land are leased for use as theaters. Rosebrock was particularly incensed last year when the VA allowed a “celebrity carnival” to take place on the property, at a time when there are more than 6,500 homeless veterans in Los Angeles, including some who sleep on the streets outside the land that is to be leased as a public park.

“Our protest is an outcry that sovereign and sacred land deeded for the use and care of veterans is being stolen away and leased to private, special interest groups with no transparency or accountability for the money generated,” Rosebrock said. “The U.S. Flag Code allows for the flag to be displayed upside down when property is in danger. It’s clear to us that this property is in danger, and has been for a long time.”

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38 Responses to "Robert Rosebrock: ACLU Sues VA Over Free Speech Rights"

  1. Joshua  March 18, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    The money people in Brentwood and that area want the VA land for basically little to no money and the VA is giving it to them that way. I spend as many Sundays as I can with the Old Veterans Guard so obviously I support them and understand them but for ME its uncomfortable to have the flag flown upside down.

  2. 1scorpion  March 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

    The flag can, and should be, flown upside down as an expression of dire need. There is no two ways about it.

    I wore my Flag lapel pin on my hat, upside down for years. Until it broke! Why? To show I did not agree with the Iraq War. My Son did two tours and he also sometimes wore his upside down, to show that the Iraq War was upside down and it put our Country at risk and in dire straits. My Son also wore a button that staed, “IRAQ-Arabic for Viet Nam.”

    Mr. Rosebrock is expressing his view, and to those that don’t agree with it, fine. However, do not degrade this man, for yu only degrade yourselves and show your ignorance.

    Help him right the things that are wrong, and then we all can fly it Proudly as it should be. To do otherwise is just wrong.

  3. Francisco Juarez USMC  March 18, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Congrat’s to Robert Rosebrock and his die-hard band of Veterans who protest every Sunday to save the “HOME”! Hopefully, this law suit will begin to turn the tide of poor land-use policy. I just wish that Ralph Tillman’s name was also on the list with the Director and Police Chief, he is the real culprit in this heist!

  4. Tom Dillman  March 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Thank you Rob, Duff, Jeff G., Mark and the rest. For one of the few times in my life I see the infamous ACLU doing something right. As for you Stewart, I don’t know man. It seems like your head is up other peoples’ dark recesses and read the Constitution and the US Flag Code. Then recognize that stealing is stealing!

    Stew, I’m a former native Californian. It is people like you that swarmed in with your elitist ideals, got voting control and ruined (and bankrupted) the State with your misplaced senses of identity. You changed OUR California into being like the place you hated and moved from — the snobbish Northeast.

    Tom Army Vet, 1st Cav, Texas

  5. Bob Y  March 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I am hoping that this gets a lot of country wide news stories. Something has to be done and soon. As far as the flag goes from what I have read you can do anything you want to do to it. I have always learned to respect it and always will. The flag code is only a code and not a law. It is used as a guide. Correct me if I’m wrong. They burn the flag-they wear the flag-they do many other things against the code. I don’t like it, and never will. I wrote to my Reps on the VA mess that is going on. I got a note back from one saying thanks for contacting our office. Big deal. Might as well have dumped it with the other stuff in the toilet. I wish I lived out that way to help the protesters. Getting a little to old for that stuff, but could show up now and then.

  6. Robert Rosebrock  March 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm


    Incredibly, you state: “dont break the law by hanging rags on the gates and fences then getting ticketed and the rest,”

    Let me be very clear: I (we) have not broken any law! Obviously you still have not read the U.S. Flag Code. But why is that no surprise coming from someone who obviously has never even read the March 2, 1887 Congressional Act and the March 3, 1888 legal Land Grant Deed. You, like your wealthy cohorts, the VA bureaucrats, and the sell-out politicians, only interpret legal documents to benefit yourselves personally, regardless of the price it costs to those who are protected by such legal Documents.

    Anyone who calls the United States and POW / MIA Flags “rags” is a shameful disgrace, but I still support your Constitutional Right to demean and discredit Old Glory all you want. It just speaks volumes about your hypocrisy.

    If you do not like the American Flag to be legally hanging in “Distress,” then stop aiding and abetting those who have put this land and thousands upon thousand of homeless Veterans’ lives in danger. It’s that simple.

    And the next time you and the so-called “124 heirs” have a pow-wow on Veterans sacred land to discuss how you want to take this property away from Veterans for your own personal gain, do it somewhere else.

    If the “124 heirs” are who they say they are, the would be standing on the corner of San Vicente and Wilshire Boulevards every Sunday with the “Old Veterans Guard.” In fact, they would’ve initiated it.

    Moreover, the “124 heirs” would support the “Veterans Grand Plan” proposed by the Old Veterans Guard to transform these run-down, obsolete, 80-year-old buildings into a 21st Century Grand Veterans Home.

    And they would endorse the Veterans “Declaration of Enforcement” to ensure that this sacred land is “to be permanently maintained as a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.”

    The problem is, they are not who they say they are. And you shall be known by the company you keep.

  7. stewart  March 17, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    just dont hang the flag upside down

    • Gordon Duff  March 17, 2010 at 6:37 pm


      Sorry it bothers you. When it was hung ‘right side up’ you didn’t notice. This is how warriors show frustration, it is both legal and respectful. It is for you to respect those who are putting themselves out for their brothers, not for the fatcats and users who are trying to steal from veterans.


    • Steve Hudson  March 17, 2010 at 8:10 pm

      I absolutely agree with Gordon. A Nam vet in or near Green Bay WI did the same thing when the council refused to grant him a license. The did not give a reason why. His friends, neighbors and even some members of the city council got the message and he turned his flag around. The police would not touch it either (half of them were veterans. Incidentally, I studied flag etiquette in great detail,…please do not go by the various veterans national organization’s pamphlets as they are not complete. I went to the national archives and studied the complete. The main thing or issue is that this man was not being disrespectful, but simply in a passionate way, get the attention of who he wanted to.

    • Philip Dennany  March 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

      The US Gov is doing fraudulant wars of litteral terror and greed under our flag. Soldiers that were lied to certainly are morally entitled to post it upside down. That is it’s proper position at this time.

  8. stewart  March 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Duff as usual go off half cocked and never answere the questions put to you, I have sat with the heirs, there are 124 of them at last count, we all met with those heirs that came to a picnic at the WLA-VA some years back and had a pow wow, it was very apparent that they are very proud of their families contribution to the history of California, they take a far different view of these issues your crowd attmepts to run up the flag pole up side down.

    So let me repeat it, protest till yer hearts content, dont break the law by hanging rags on the gates and fences then getting ticketed and the rest, because it reflects poorly on the cause, as well as on the publics perception of the rest of us, and do nnot under any circumstances hang the colors up side down to make a politcal statement…is that such a gard thing to wrap yer mind around?

    Some of us just do not appreciate how this guy is going about what he is trying to do.

    • Gordon Duff  March 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm


      Please understand how stupid you sound. When land is given away freely, there are no heirs. The heirs are the veterans, not you or any other “hangers-on.” What planet are you living on, it certainly isn’t Earth.

      Go find some other land and do what you want with it. When the land was given to the veterans, it was worthless, no water, nothing nearby…and was given so other nearly land would increase in value….land filled later with bars and whore houses…..

      The land was given away to enhance other family land. Perhaps you could run a business yourself such as one I describe. Perhaps you do, from the sound of your pointless carrying on.


    • Gordon Duff  March 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      Again and for the last time: How do you control land as an heir when nobody left you land. You have no proven rights or title. The land was totally worthless when donated, dry, barren and in the middle of nowhere. When the poor soldiers were moved out there, they felt abandoned.

      Soon, however whore houses and bars were brought out to help them spend their pensions. You are also heirs to these business owners also.

      Answer me this: why do you hate veterans?


  9. Eric Sims  March 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    As a retired vetern I support how Mr. Robert Rosebrock is handling his “free Speech”. If the VA will not listen to him then I agree he had to get their attention by the way he hung the flag. The VA is using the flag as a smoke screen to keep their agenda intact while veterans sleep on the street. That should be a crime in itself. All those people who are using the land other than the original intent of the owner are the same ones that rest safe and warm in their beds because of our veterans. Greed pure and simple.

  10. Dave Culmer  March 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

    This poor soul stewart, should take the hole his head is buried in and walk due west as far as he can go, at which time he is to swim west as far as he can.
    In boot camp my DI told us what a “whitemouth” was. It’s a puke that rats out his buddies to the DI. When he is no longer useful to the DI he is then treated like he has the plague. The sad thing about it is, he doesn’t even know it.

  11. Robert Rosebrock  March 17, 2010 at 12:19 am


    Are you a Veteran?

    Have you ever sat down and read the U.S. Flag Code, Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10 As amended by P.L. 344, 94th Congress Approved July 7, 1976

    § 176. Respect for flag:

    (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

    If you do not think that this sacred land that was deeded exclusively to Veterans is not in extreme danger, along with the lives of thousands of homeless Veterans who belong on this land, then you have a serious problem with facing reality. Instead, you would rather kowtow to the wealthy fat-cats, and to Waxman, Yaroslavsky, etc., who are not Veterans!

    Have you ever sat down with a homeless Veteran on the outside of the multi-million dollar fence that the VA donated to appease the wealthy, pressuring neighbors to “beautify the entryway into Brentwood?” Have you ever sat down with any homeless Veteran?

    Have you ever sat down with the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party that have a Resolution opposing the public park and all other misuse of this sacred land that you support?

    Have you ever sat down with the Board of Directors of the CDP that adopted the Resolution?

    Have you ever asked Waxman, Yaroslavsky, Feinstein and the rest of the westside Democratic Party why they do not support their Party’s Veterans Caucus and Board of Directors opposing the abuse and misuse of this land?

    Have you ever read the American Legion’s Resolution opposing the public park and other misuse of this land. They have a California membership of 150,000. There are countless other Veterans organizations that fully support what we are doing, including hanging the American Flag in “Distress.”

    Have you ever had the VA police spy upon you, harass, intimidate and cite you with criminal charges, only to drop them when the ACLU stepped in and challenged their anti-American tactics.

    Have you ever sat down with me, even though you and your cohorts have criticized me and our rightful cause to honor the Deed of 1888, and the Congressional Act of 1887, to ensure that this land is “to be permanently maintained as a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers?”

    You mention the “heirs.” Arcadia de Baker died in 1912, had no children and left no will … but her cousins fought over her land and money. Are these the “heirs” you speak of, who have absolutely no voice in this matter, whatsoever. And they should be ashamed if they approve of anything contrary to the legal Deed of 1888, as should you.

    Arcadia de Baker does have “heirs” and it is the millions of Veterans that she left her land for … “to be Permanently Maintained for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.” The legal Deed of 1888 speaks for itself and does not need any false clarification by self-serving “heirs.”

    Could you, and the so-called heirs you speak of, show Veterans the clause in the legal Deed of 1888 that says you can build a public park, take over the Veterans two theaters for a “community cultural center,” use 21 acres for a playground for the wealthiest private school in the nation, and countless other abuse and misuse of this land? Of course not! You are all a bunch of frauds!

    There are thousands of homeless Veterans because you and your ilk are so selfish that you want what is not yours. Leave this land alone!!!

    We legally hang the American Flag in Distress because of people like yourself who have put this land in extreme danger, not to mention causing thousands of Veterans to be homeless.

    Shame on you!

    • Gordon Duff  March 17, 2010 at 12:20 am


      There are soldiers and there are pissants.


    • Terry Lee  March 17, 2010 at 6:16 am

      Bob, i have sat down with the veterans, listened to them, and slept beside them in LA. No easy thing here, but by God I support you and your efforts, and damn the soul who goes against that. Thanks Bob.

    • Robert Rosebrock  March 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm


      I know you’ve been there every step of the way for all of our Veterans, and thank you for your support in our cause. It’s difficult to comprehend how anyone can be against trying to help homeless Veterans get back into their “Home.” As Gordon Duff rightfully notes, the real desecration is having a homeless Veteran sleeping outside his rightful “Home.” The Flag in “distress” really works because nobody paid any attention to us so long as we hung it Union side up. The “distress” mode is in the U.S. Flag Code for a specific reason, this is living proof. Keep up the great work!

    • B.A. Gilmore  March 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      Rob, you’re right. The government is good at giving medals but not proper respect to veteran’s. When they’re down on their luck and need help the VA should at least try to supply it. Only in America could land deeded to the vets be used to kiss up to the rich.

    • Webmaster888  April 17, 2010 at 4:14 am

      Hello Mr. Rosebrock. Have posted excerpt of your article here:
      to open discussion, with a link to this article. I feel it is a discrace that any Veteran is homeless. You’ve earned the right to speak your mind. Have one question if you please. Did you display the flag on their property, or your own personal property. That could be a large issue. Would like to keep informed. You’ve earned the right to speak your mind. I learned something from you today. Thank you.

    • Gordon Duff  April 17, 2010 at 12:44 pm

      To be clear, Federal property, according to law, is “our own personal property.” We have full support from the American Legion in this. Any federal property, as long as it is not secure for a reason, any property that is open to the public, is free for any public expression.
      This is American law, our Constitution, our freedoms. The ACLU would never have come onboard if they didn’t have a slam dunk against the VA. The Legion knows this very well. Those photos of folks carrying the flag upside down….past Legion post commander.

  12. stewart  March 16, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    so…its the Rosebrock Show and not the Gordon Duff show now is it?

    You, know? Some of us just don’t appreciate the flag being flown in such a manner no matter what the cause.

    As to the claim that ‘property is in danger, that is a specious claim entirely, designed to fit Mr Rosebrocks excuse for such an objectionable act.

    If these individuals want to protest the goings on at the WLA-VA then fine let them, just don’t do it such a way as to reflect poorly on the veterans community at large by displaying the flag in a disrespectful manner so as to make a politcal statement as though this small segment of the veterans community represent the position of the rest of us who will have no part of such poor conduct.

    In closing let us recall that the 124 heirs of the original settlers who deeded the land do not agree with what is being said and done here by this group as well. There are right ways and wrong ways to petition the gvt for redress, here we have the flag being used by demagogues to make a politcal statement.

    • Gordon Duff  March 16, 2010 at 7:04 pm

      Hey Stew,

      You don’t like American, then go back to Russia.


    • David  March 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

      Wow. Thats the mature way to handle it. I guess free speech is not for everyone.

    • Gordon Duff  March 16, 2010 at 8:58 pm


      Considering the suit is over free speech and you are in opposition to it, can you imagine exactly how your position looks to people?


    • David  March 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm

      How do you know I’m in opposition of it? Free speech is being able to say whatever I want without fear of retaliation for it. I strongly believe in it. But your response to Stewart makes you look like you haven’t left the playground. Give your credentials and experience their due. I would expect an intelligent response and not a knee jerk reaction like our proponents.

    • Gordon Duff  March 16, 2010 at 9:33 pm


      We’ve met Stewart before. We really don’t want him around…he is a spammer with a private agenda representing the homeowners group that we oppose. This is a far more serious issue than just flags, its fraud, theft and abuse of veterans.

      What I wonder is why so few people care about veterans but are willing to piss and moan about the flag. I know enough about Stewart to have been more than kind in my response. He deserves, especially from veterans, something far nastier.

      I am, frankly, sick of “veterans” who take continually and give nothing. Rosebrock has been working for years, sacrificed more than any will ever know. This is an issue that is years old and no vet in the US has an excuse. Everyone knows this is rich assholes stealing from homeless vets. It is going to get alot nastier than this, much nastier.

      I won’t be happy until all the vet land is recovered and vets have a decent center in Los Angeles.


    • stewart  March 16, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      Duff? have you ever set one foot at the WLA-VA in your entire life?

      Have you ever sat down with the heirs of the Jones and DeBaker as well as the rest?

      Have you ever sat with Waxman and Yaroslavsky or attended several public meetings on the issue where former Mayor Dick Riordan showed up or the hundreds of folks on all sides of this issue?

      NOOOOOOOOOOO, you havent have you?

      Many of deals that were cut to get revenue for the VA were sealed during the Bush years, some even before that, why some before you were born. If you and these guys think that you are going to turn the clock back and close the 405 freeway, and tear down the federal building and at the same time tangle with a federal judge? Well, ya’ll have at it.

      Before ya’ll do that though maybe it would enlighten you if you get a copy of the VVA archives and read the read the article entiled ‘ Who’s VA is it? ‘ and when you new guys get done reading it and know what the definative issues really are are, then you can pop off about me all you want, because as of right now, you are just plain ignorant of the facts.

      You can lay your BS down in my name all that you want, and it will change nothing on this issue,but as I said before knock yourselves out for all I care, lets part company how ever when you start hanging the colors up side down to make a political statement hidng behind the 1st Amendment.

      Your crowd are trying to sew seeds of discord with the siege mentality you dribble about, the VA Police have a mandate under the charter to apply the law equally, and that includes these guys if they break the law, the fences and gates are not clothes lines for every tom dick and harry to hang their laundry on, whether you like it or not.

      Now when you come out here and handcuff yourself to the gates, or some other foolish act of disobedience, then we will talk about you too. Till then you are just a spit ball shooter spammer yourself doing it from 2500 miles away.

      Here we have more homeless vets than perhaps any other city in the nation, we have numerous vacant buildings that can and should be put to use serving veterans and their families, but the facilities are quite old, the utilities not safe for human use, thinhgs like pipes electrical and sanitary features need more attention than the WLA-VA budget affords, and until such time as some one comes up with a comprehensive plan to make better use of the grounds?

      All the protests arent going anywhere for some of us who just dont want you to do that to the flag.

      get it?

    • Gordon Duff  March 16, 2010 at 11:28 pm


      I have reviewed the history with VA officials, reviewed the duties and responsibilties of VA security guards and seen violations of constitutional rights. Your claims that the “heirs”..unproven heirs…

      How can their be an “heir” to land given away?

      OK, smartypants…what, exactly, have these “heirs” inherited? Do they have proof that they hold some rights to the property? If not, and NOT is the operative word, they are simply pretenders, “hanger-on” relatives hoping for a handout from the local crowd of vet haters.

      As for your talk about the flag…oh please…spare me. You can’t stand to see a flag in distress mode but you are able to ignore veterans sleeping on the sidewalk in the same place?

      Your petty cops are being dragged to court. Your police chief buddy will be transferred. Donna is going to get a career redirection and, with luck, veterans will get a fair shake.
      Your other representation about “revenue” during the Bush years….have you read the agreements? I have.

      The deals were with Ralph Tillman and date to the Clinton years…and are all very suspicious. Please, try to get one or two things correct other than your own name….and your personal interest in this.

      The plans are for new construction not as New Directions is doing in their Building 4 and 5 project in Sepulvada. We have had you around before….a shill for the Waxman/Israeli crowd in Brentwood. What you are not is loyal to veterans.


    • Terry Lee  March 17, 2010 at 6:20 am

      Forgive them Father as they know what not they do.

    • Marc C. Daniele  March 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      I do not know you, and I don’t know if you are a veteran or not Stewie (doubt it!), but of what I read from you, you sound like the same corrupt, Communistic voices I hear and see on my ILLEGAL VA Claims Denials, etc. from a VA that all to often, and without punishment, disregards the real, true facts to make up it’s own in order to deny to a veteran his, or her legal right to benefits earned and needed! Too often for that all important personal monetary bonus, or as retribution for a veteran seeking that their rights be protected even half as well as a VA Employees are!
      Personally, I am sick and tired of fools like you Stewie, and our so-called Elected Officials such as Senators McCain, McCaskill, Bond, and Congressman Carnahan, etc. that I’ve personally asked help from, but instead their staff sits back and lets the VA violate not only US Law but VA Policies and Procedure, as well as make up their own laws as it goes along only to benefit the VA, and without regard for the veterans health and welfare, as well as their families reputations that can be tarnished as part of a VA Claim as mine has! This is not to mention the VA personally lying to these said Elected Officials in writing without any response, or even interest in knowing the lies they were actually told! And these are the people making our laws, and ammendments to our constitution?
      It is time we veterans tell our Elected Officials, VA, etc. that enough is enough! Veterans rights MUST be protected as well or better than all the gold in Ft. Knox, and that NO violations of veterans rights, no matter how small or the media consequences involved will be accepted without severe punishment to the full extent of REAL US Laws! Besides, anyone willing to give up their personal freedom and their lives to protect this country such as veterans have done should never be forgotten whether serving in war or not! If it takes hanging our beloved flag upside down to do this, than so be it! I believe most veterans, and Americans would agree with me that our country is in peril at this time anyway!
      Somewhere along the line our fore-fathers real ideas and beliefs for this country have been lost on corruption, greed, and Political Correctness!

      Marc C. Daniele
      US Army, 100% Disabled Veteran
      [email protected]

    • Terry Lee  March 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm

      You are either for us or against us. No middle ground here. You are talking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time.

    • shawn  March 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      In Soviet Russia, flag flies you upside down!

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