Notorious Flag Burner Joey Johnson Files Suit Against City and Police of Cleveland and the Fascist Infowars for Attack on Political Speech

January 13, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


On January 11, Joey Johnson, supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party, filed a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Police Department, and the fascist website Infowars for their attempt to prevent the burning of the U.S. flag in protest at the July 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland. Trump had gone to the RNC to deliver a fascist message of white supremacy, “law and order,” scapegoating of immigrants, disgusting misogyny, and naked “America First” chauvinism. Against this Nazi rally, the Revolution Club went right up to the gates and linked arms, as Joey Johnson stood in the middle and lit the red, white and blue rag on fire. This bold action, and the message behind it, was picked up by national and international media and broadcast to the world: There is a force right here in the belly of the beast with a whole different message: America Was NEVER Great! We Need to OVERTHROW the System!

Johnson’s lawsuit was reported widely in the media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, McClatchy (Cleveland), San Francisco Chronicle, and The following is the statement from Joey Johnson about his lawsuit.


My name is Gregory “Joey” Johnson—I was the defendant in the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Texas v. Johnson, which established the legal precedent that burning the U.S. flag in protest was constitutionally protected political speech.

I am here today filing this lawsuit against the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Police Division, and the fascist Infowars for their illegal police assault and attempt to prevent me from burning the American flag on July 20, 2016 when Donald Trump was selected as candidate for president during the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland. Trump’s campaign and his year as president has been all about a white supremacist, virulently anti-immigrant, misogynist, “America first” chauvinist program under the banner of “Make America Great Again.” On the very day that Trump was nominated, I, along with the Revolution Club protested at the gates of the RNC Convention and said, “America was NEVER Great!, and that America has always been first: at genocide, at slavery, at exploitation, at destruction of the environment, torture, coup d’etats, invasions”… I said, “We’re standing here with the people of the world!” And then I set fire to the American flag. I did this because I believe, as Bob Avakian, the leader of a movement for an actual revolution in this country, says, “American lives are NOT more important than other people’s lives.”

The Cleveland police illegally launched a massive police assault on our protest and more than 16 Revolution Club members or others were dragged to the ground, handcuffed, arrested and taken to jail and kept in preventive detention until the RNC was over. 

Along with being brutally assaulted by the federal, state and local police, at the same time, I was also attacked and punched by two fascist thugs who later identified themselves as Infowars operatives and admitted on YouTube that same night that they came to the protest to prevent me from carrying out what is… (still so far) constitutionally protected political speech, and that they punched and kicked and tore my shirt.

Yet, the police and prosecutors charged me with assault against these fascist thugs, claiming they were the victims! I faced charges and the threat of jail for six months; two other protesters faced multiple felony charges and years in prison and 12 other protesters faced misdemeanor charges. ALL the charges against the RNC 16 Defendants, as we became known, were either dropped or dismissed before trial in the face of vigorous political support and a strong legal defense by over 30 lawyers brought together by the National Lawyers Guild who volunteered their services and skills, including from the NAACP. 

Our political protest, including the burning the American flag that day, was also extremely prescient. We were sounding the alarm about the real dangers of a Trump presidency, and now the fascist Trump and Pence regime in less than a year has shown what “Making America Great Again” means: a nightmare for humanity; ugly and deadly white supremacy; demonizing and tearing apart immigrant families; banning and terrorizing Muslims, LGBTQ people and all those deemed “un-American”; threatening NFL players who refuse to stand for the national anthem; destruction of the environment as well as threats to totally annihilate with nuclear weapons the 25 million human beings who live in North Korea.

Remember Trump’s tweet, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Trump called on his rabid supporters to beat up protesters and have them carried out on stretchers at his fascist Nuremburg rallies and offered to pay their legal fees if they were arrested for carrying out such criminal acts. State laws are being passed which would enable drivers to run over protesters.

The attack on me and the Revolution Club at the 2016 RNC was an attempt to beat down those who dare to stand up and call out the system for the crimes it commits against people here and around the world and intimidate others who do not want to live in a fascist America. As the RNC 16 has stated, “We had a right to protest and we were right to do it.” With this lawsuit, I not only reiterate that but I am sounding the alarm again, calling on the millions who feel tremendous revulsion and anguish over the turmoil and harm being done by the Trump/Pence regime, and the threat of much greater harm and suffering to come, to demand: this nightmare must end; the Trump/Pence Regime must go!

I am very appreciative of the efforts of the Chandra Law Firm, to Subodh Chandra and Patrick Kabat in representing me. I’m filing this lawsuit against the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Police Department because my arrest and those of the 15 other protesters outside the gates of the 2016 Republican National Convention was illegal, outrageous and an act of political repression.




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