Brian Dunn, owner of Brian’s Pub in Sea Point, and barman Mervyn Junies. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
Cape Town - The owner of Brian’s Pub in Sea Point, where the display of an old South African flag led to an altercation, has taken the flag down and wants to meet the group of friends who took offence and were later jailed.

A social media fury erupted when the three friends were arrested for public drunkenness after they had raised their concerns about the flag.

The incident took place in the early hours last Saturday when Richard Julies and his friends popped in for a drink. Julies said they had raised their concerns about the flag, which eventually led to an altercation in the pub and on the street outside the pub.

He said one of his friends had called the police, but the police turned on them, placing him and two friends in the back of a police van.

He said they were kept in the cells for an extended period due to the computer system being down and were eventually released at 9am the next day, but they had refused to pay the admission of guilt fine and instead opted to oppose the charges in court in October.

Read: WATCH: Fracas over old SA flag leads to arrests

There was a mixed reaction online, but the focus was on the flag. Many supported Brian’s Pub, while others felt even though it wasn’t illegal to display the flag, it opened up wounds for those who suffered under it during apartheid.

When Weekend Argus visited the pub this week, the old flag had been removed.

The pub’s owner, Brian Dunn, is a collector of flags - old and new - and the walls of the pub are covered with flags.

Dunn, who has owned Brian’s Pub for 23 years, said he has over 30 flags, some of which he keeps at home. He said most of the flags had been given to him by people who visited the pub, or from tourists who left theirs behind.

Dunn said by hanging the old South African flag he had not been trying to impose any political agenda or inflict pain.

Originally the flag had hung on a wall among the rest of the flags, but was stolen. A replacement flag given to him - the one which sparked the incident - was placed closer to the bar counter to prevent it being stolen again.

He said the old South African flag - like so many others he owns, was a collector’s item.

“I have no emotional attachment to the flag. I never wanted the flag to start a racial issue. I do understand people’s pain. It hurts me that I am being labelled a racist.”

Patrons at Brian’s Pub in Sea Point. Many flags from Dunn’s collection are displayed at the establishment. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures

Dunn first heard about what happened on Saturday morning. He said he removed the flag because he didn’t want it to cause further harm. He said in the 12 years that the flag had been up it was the first time it had caused a ruckus.

His belief is that a flag cannot be blamed for the pain and suffering people went through; instead, that blame lies with the politicians of that period.

Dunn said he was open to meeting Julies and his friends.

Barman Mervyn Junies was on duty on the night in question: “They bought about two rounds and after about 30 minutes they noticed the flag.”

According to Junies, one of them grabbed people’s drinks off the counter and threw ashtrays at him.

“I told them to leave. I got upset because they started interfering with my clients.”

Junies said that Julies and his friends had started calling people names.

“All I know is that they became really racist. They were screaming and hysterical. I told them if they had a problem with the flag they should come back and speak to the owner.”

Julies dismissed these claims and said they had not thrown ashtrays or taken drinks off the bar counter. He said he had been in talks with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) about the treatment he and his friends received from the police.

“We were invited to attend a meeting with commissioner Chris Nissen from the SAHRC on Tuesday and we are working on the complaint to be lodged with them."

Nissen said he had seen the media reports about the incident and decided to make contact with Julies and his friends. Nissen said displaying the flag was not illegal and it was protected under the constitution.

Weekend Argus