Thursday's scheduled flag burning took place in Philadelphia right on time, at 6 p.m. on the dot. It's hard to know how many people would have turned up if not for the rain, which dark, heavy clouds indicated would resume any minute now.
The burning itself was to be conducted by the Revolutionary Communist Party, with a separate contingent gathered to protest that act of protest. One man had brought his alpaca, which he insisted didn't mind the drizzle, nor the dozens of curious fingers poking at it.
Emily Rubinstein, 22, had just arrived to Philadelphia on Wednesday, and was disappointed by the scene here outside of FDR Park, particularly following the peaceful rally she'd attended near City Hall the day before.
"That's not what the revolution is about," said Rubinstein, who identified as a Democratic Socialist. "It's about reforming America, not destroying it."
She and her friend, 23-year-old Kimberly Chadwell, felt that burning the flag was an intentional act of provocation.
"We believe in peace and addressing the issues, and not just burning everything down. You're not going to make any progress if you're just antagonistic toward everybody," Chadwell said.
When burning time finally rolled around, the scrum of assembled protesters jostled for space amid umbrella-wielding news crews intent on getting their shot.
At the first sign of fire, 25-year-old Jennifer Rojas shrieked and pulled away from the gathering, burying her head in her hands.
"This country is supposed to be about a melting pot of people," she said, a rain-streaked Guy Fawkes mask pulled up on her head and tears rolling down her face. "That flag means a lot to everyone, and I understand it means blood to some. But from my point of view, there's so much potential with this country."
To the group supporting the burning, though, the flag is simply a symbol of imperialism and racism. One man, his face covered with a bandana, said that to him, the flag was just a rag. I asked if that was the case, then what was the point of burning it.
"It makes a statement, and as you can see, it upsets some people," he said. "They're so proud to be Americans, but the flag that's being burned was probably made in a sweatshop in China."
As it turned out, the flag was too wet to be burned at all. "Should have brought lighter fluid," someone mused. Activist performance artist Vermin Supreme paraded around with his wet boot on his head, and a long string of cops looked on placidly a few feet away.
The anti-climax was perfectly fine with Chadwell, who thought the whole affair was a misuse of resources anyway.
"It's pointless," she said. "It's not going to get them anything except arrested."