Assault Charges Against Joey Johnson and Another RNC 16 Defendant Dropped
ALL Charges Against the RNC 16 Must Be Dropped NOW!
January 17, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 11, the assault charges against Joey Johnson and another RNC 16 defendant were dropped! Johnson and RNC 16 were arrested and charged off of the burning of the American flag at the Republican National Convention (RNC) last summer that nominated the fascist Trump. This is an important victory, the result of determined political and legal battle that has been, and continues to be, waged to demand that all the charges be dropped.
Now is the time to step up the fight and demand that ALL the felony and misdemeanor charges be dropped against the other RNC 16 defendants NOW. On January 26, there is an evidentiary hearing on a motion to dismiss the charges against other defendants, on the grounds that their arrest and criminal charges constitute a violation of their First Amendment rights and illegal and politically motivated prosecution.
Burning the Flag at the RNC Was Right—America Was Never Great!
On July 20, 2016, Donald Trump was nominated at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland as their presidential candidate with a program of fascist law and order. Under the overall slogan “Make America Great Again,” the RNC bristled with threats of heightened aggression against other countries, blatant misogyny, and unbridled vitriolic racist attacks against Blacks, Chicanos, other Latinos, Muslims, and immigrants. All of which Trump the president-elect has continued to make clear he intends to implement with his cabinet of ghouls, murderers, and monsters.
Outside the RNC, Joey Johnson lit the American flag on fire as the Revolution Club chanted “1, 2, 3, 4—Slavery, Genocide, and War! 5, 6, 7, 8—America Was NEVER Great!” Johnson and the Revolution Club had a right to do what they did... and it was the right thing to do as a fascist was being nominated to be one of the two main presidential candidates. (See “Joey Johnson and the RNC 16 Put the System on Trial in Cleveland.”)
Joey Johnson with the support of the Revolution Club burned the American flag outside the Republican National Convention to protest the toxic chauvinism and reactionary ideas of all stripes surrounding Trump's nomination. Joey Johnson said, "We're standing here with the people of the world."
On November 29, Donald Trump threatened: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” So make no mistake: The continued prosecution of the RNC 16 is part of a whole fascist assault on people’s rights and the rule of law, shredding of established constitutional rights, and imposition of open violent repression against dissent. Trump’s suppression of and threats against CNN and any media that dare to report anything that could put Trump in an unfavorable light make clear how any and all opposition or criticism will be treated under a Trump-Pence fascist regime.
Outrageous but Serious Charges
The flag burning in front of the RNC interrupted the “legitimacy” of the election charade—this was NOT what the ruling class wanted. Burning the U.S. flag is constitutionally protected “freedom of speech” (thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson), and the same Johnson who fought to win that right is the one who burned the flag this time. But these facts did not stop the pigs from breaking their system’s own laws in a pre-planned brutal assault and arrests of the RNC 16. The only charge against Joey Johnson and one of the other RNC 16 was assault on two men—Trump operatives connected with Alex Jones’s Infowars.com—who claimed to have been burned by the flag burning.
In August, Johnson’s attorney presented to the prosecutors, and later to the court, a video that the so-called “victims” of the “assault” Johnson and the other RNC defendant were charged with had posted online the night of July 20 of an interview with Alex Jones of infowars.com (see “Who Is Alex Jones and Infowars.com?”). In this video, the two “victims” say that they went to the July 20 protest to attack Johnson, and in fact did attack him, in order to try to stop him from carrying out the flag burning. Johnson’s attorneys argued that this video alone was enough to show the charges of assault were bogus and should be dropped immediately—but the prosecutor refused.
From the outset of these outrageous yet serious criminal charges, the RNC 16 attorneys have demanded in legal documents that the authorities turn over evidence that they argued would reveal how a whole slew of government agencies and fascists collaborated and conspired to attack the RNC 16 when they exercised what is supposed to be a constitutionally protected form of free speech—specifically, the relationship of Alex Jones to the U.S. Secret Service, which was the lead agency responsible for security at the RNC. The attorneys also demanded documents which would show the role of the FBI, which, along with the Cleveland Police Department, went to the homes of dozens of community organizers and activists, as well as people associated with supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The FBI and police questioned them about their protest plans for the convention, and the plans of other groups and individuals, and asked some people about previous addresses and their political and social affiliations. This was aimed at intimidating anyone who was considering protesting at the RNC. The documents demanded by the RNC 16 attorneys could reveal the policies and plans of these agencies and other state agencies against protesters carrying out constitutionally protected political activities.
In October, the prosecutor opposed a subpoena served on Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams and refused to turn over such documents. The prosecutor argued that “any requests for plans, strategies, tactics, methods of intelligence gatherings or briefings” was confidential. (See “‘We did nothing wrong—we have right on our side’—RNC Flag Burners Go On the Offensive.”) The lawyers had filed two motions: One to consolidate all the RNC 16 misdemeanor cases before one judge, given that all the charges arose from the authorities’ attempt to stop the flag burning; and another motion to dismiss all the misdemeanor charges. While many attorneys said the consolidation of the cases was unprecedented, it was granted by the court.
In early November, the lead prosecutor of these cases, Kimberly Barnett-Mills, wrote in letters to the defense attorneys that her office had “misplaced” the evidence in the “assault” cases. She claimed they had “lost” the statements and the video provided by the so-called “victims,” which were the basis of the assault charges. And Barnett-Mills wrote that she could not verify the replacement video again provided by “victims”! Yet she still refused to drop the charges at that time.
In December, when the RNC 16 attorneys appeared before the judge appointed to all the cases, they reiterated their arguments as to why the charges should be dismissed, including the confession video made by the Infowars “victims” and the “misplaced” evidence. At that court appearance, the prosecutor backed off of her initial refusal to turn over documents she deemed “confidential.” But it still remains to be seen whether they will fully comply with these requests. The judge set the hearing on the motion to dismiss the misdemeanor charges for January 26. The attorneys made clear to the court and the prosecutor that the courtroom would be packed with media and the public. The court ensured that room would be made for any and all who wanted to attend.
Then on January 11, the prosecutor filed the documents declaring they would not be “pursuing the prosecution” against the two defendants charged with assault, and the court dismissed the charges.
From the outset, the illegal assault, arrests, and ensuing and continuing prosecution against the RNC 16 was and is an attempt to intimidate people from opposing the message that odious and fascist program put forward by Trump—which will come to be if it is not stopped before it starts.
Making the Powers’ Attacks Boomerang Against Them
But as the RNC 16 declared in their determination to fight these charges, “The powers that be are NOT all-powerful. They have already been stung by our bold action. And there is a powerful basis to make this illegal and outrageous attack against us boomerang back against them, further exposing the illegitimacy of their system and advancing the movement for revolution. We had a right to do what we did at the RNC... and it was right! The flag burning burst through the suffocating, disgusting atmosphere in Cleveland, and news of it reached tens of millions of people. Since then, others coming from their own perspectives have taken up their own forms of protest. Millions are openly questioning America’s special ‘greatness’ and refusing to salute its symbols.”
The RNC 16 defendants and those demanding that the charges against RNC 16 be dropped have continued to put this case before the public—including setting up radio interviews and speaking engagements at law schools with Joey Johnson, making commitments to pack the courtroom at every court appearance, and calling on people to contact the prosecutors to demand the charges be dropped.
There is no doubt that these efforts, along with those of the RNC 16 legal defense team in court, resulted in the dropping of the charges against Johnson and the other RNC defendant. NOW is the time to step up the demand that ALL the charges be dropped against ALL RNC defendants. The upcoming hearing on January 26 is a time to pack the courtroom, contact the prosecutors, and demand the charges be dropped. Donations are needed for this fight and to get all the RNC 16 defendants back to Cleveland for the hearing!
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.