When truck driver Eamon F. Mohan got home to the Western Massachusetts city of Northampton yesterday morning, he found the American flag he had displayed out front reduced to tatters and ashes and an envelope on his stoop addressed with a black marker "to the police."
The 5-by-9-foot flag, which was bolted to a birch tree, was the victim of an anti-American anarchist group, said Sergeant Andrew Trushaw of the Northampton police.
The typewritten note contained complaints about the USA Patriot Act and assertions that the United States was "oppressing millions around the world."
According to Mohan, the note said that "every flag in the United States should be burned to send a message."
Police are investigating and say they are taking the incident very seriously.
"This is an act of violence, and we're obviously not going to put up with it," Trushaw said. "If you want to protest, protest. That's fine." But he added: "This is not a protest. This is a cowardly act - to almost burn someone's house down - that's a cowardly act."
A section of the tree was charred close to the house.
Mohan's family did not appear to be targeted, police said.
Mohan's daughter, Megan, 19, is a US Marine, currently in training, and his son, Eamonn, 17, plans to join after his 18th birthday next month.
"I'm extremely proud of their serving this fine country," said Mohan, 43. "No country is perfect, but we do a lot of good around the world that isn't publicized."
The note was signed by the "American Patriot Liberation Front." Police said they were unfamiliar with the group. The group is not listed in the telephone directory, and no contact information could be found for it on the Web.
For the Mohans, a burned flag and an angry message were hard things to wake up to during the holiday season.
"I'm quite angered that these cowards didn't have the decency to face me and talk to me about how they feel about me flying a flag," Mohan said. "I would have said, 'If you don't like this country, then find another.' "