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Correspondence from the Revcom Corps for the Emancipation of Humanity, Chicago

Flag Burning Sparks Controversy—Revcoms Intervene

In Chicago, April 1, 2024, the Revcom Corps, including one who is a Vietnam era vet, burned an American flag in front of City Hall.


In Chicago, April 1, 2024, the Revcom Corps, including one who is a Vietnam era vet, burned an American flag in front of City Hall.    Photo: @RevComCorpsChi

On March 25, at a protest calling for canceling the Democratic National Convention (DNC) scheduled for Chicago in August and in support of a ceasefire in Gaza, an Afghan war vet—who had been moved to act by Aaron Bushnell's self-immolation—burned an American flag he had carried with him during the war. Shortly after this, a local alderperson, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who has been active in opposing the war in Gaza and in support of migrants sent here from Texas by fascist Governor Greg Abbott, spoke at the rally. 

City Council Becomes a Site of Struggle Over Gaza

The Chicago City Council is made up of 50 alderpersons elected from 50 neighborhood “wards.” Byron Sigcho-Lopez represents Pilsen, a 93 percent Mexican-American neighborhood which is also a center of various artists and activists. 

On January 31, the City Council passed a ceasefire resolution after raucous meetings where pro-Palestinian protesters filled the chambers. Sigcho-Lopez was one of the key movers behind this resolution, which was passed when the mayor cast the tiebreaking vote. Sigcho-Lopez is the head of the council's powerful housing committee, a post he was appointed to by the mayor. 

Photos of Sigcho-Lopez speaking in front of the charred remains of the flag appeared on social media following this action. In the days that followed, a group of reactionary alderpersons launched an attack on Sigcho-Lopez. They held a press conference calling for his censure and removal from the housing committee for simply being at a protest where the flag was burned. 

Sigcho-Lopez responded that he arrived at the protest after the flag was burned and was not even aware it had happened. He upheld the legal right to burn the flag but said this is not something he supported or would do himself. 

Flag Burning Becomes the Issue of the Day

The press was suddenly filled with stories and columns about flag burning, how it became legal via the Texas v. Johnson U.S. Supreme Court case (Gregory “Joey” Johnson was and still is a revcom), whether it should be legal to burn it, and more. One columnist talked about attending an art exhibit at the School of the Art Institute in 1989 and stepping on the flag on the floor, which was part of an art installation by the artist Dread Scott when he was still a student. Free speech advocates upheld the “right to burn the flag in protest”—though some talked about it being a “vile act.”

American Crime Ad for whole series with image of U.S. airstrike in Gaza.


Revcoms Analyze Situation and Intervene

As this was happening, the Revcom Corps for the Emancipation of Humanity, Chicago, met to figure out what to do. We were all over the media after a flag burning for protest last September outside Jason Aldean's concert in suburban Tinley Park in response to his lynch mob promoting song “Try That in a Small Town.” 

How should we respond to all this? We spent some time trying to figure out what this was all about and what it meant for us to intervene on behalf of a politician. What was our freedom and what was our necessity? We concluded that this could become sharper because of the divisions at the top ripping apart society. 

We also grappled with the fact that this was a reflection of some of the contradictions within the Democratic Party right now. Beside the flag burning, the alderperson launching the attack called out Sigcho-Lopez for standing by a sign calling Biden “Genocide Joe.” The fact that the DNC will be held in Chicago is a big deal for the city and the Democratic Party. We wondered if higher-ups organizing for the DNC may have played some role in this. We also tried to figure out what else might be behind this attack. A Mexican-American community activist we know told us he thought real estate interests could be behind this because Sigcho-Lopez had been blocking some of their projects from his leadership position on the housing committee. Others said this was “payback” for the Gaza ceasefire resolution. 

We also had to contend with the fact that we got word that some people in “the community” did not want us to burn a U.S. flag because in their view this would make things harder for Sigcho-Lopez to win the resolution. 

We Needed to Make Clear: Flag Burning Is Righteous

The more we grappled with this, the more we knew we needed to act. We needed to make clear that not only is flag burning legal, but much more important than that, burning the American flag is the right thing to do. We needed to bring out the points Bob Avakian, BA, makes in his social media message Revolution Number 2 about how America was never great and why revolution is necessary. We needed to make clear that these reactionary alderpersons should not get away with their attacks on Sigcho-Lopez.

BAofficial socmed graphic substack 1456x1048


Toward the end of the week, we learned that a special City Council meeting had been called at the request of reactionary alderpersons for the following Monday, April 1. 

We went into high gear making plans to do a flag burning action before the City Council meeting. We asked a revcom who is a Vietnam era vet to join our action. We turned to “Revolution—Building up the Basis to Go for the Whole Thing, with a Real Chance to Win: Strategic Orientation and Practical Approach” and the Bob Avakian Official social media posts for guidance. 

We came up with the following points:

We are here because a bunch of people in the City Council set their hair on fire over an alderperson AFTER THE FACT being anywhere near the burning of an American flag. We don't know all that is behind this particular attack. In part this cowardly act by the City Council is a thinly veiled pretext—part of a wave of repression and suppression of people opposing Israeli genocide in Gaza which could NOT be happening without the full backing of U.S. imperialism. 

We Revcoms think the American flag should be burned because America was never great. And no decent person should be defending this rag because of what it stands for—slavery, genocide and wars for empire—from the founding of this country right down to today. 

This hysterical response is not a sign of strength. It is a sign of weakness—like the rulers of this country, the flunkies on the City Council fear that people are losing their allegiance because they are learning the truth of what this country is REALLY all about and they want to force people to get back in line.

We are the Revcom Corps for the Emancipation of Humanity and we have burned, shredded and stomped on this flag to make it clear that U.S. imperialism-capitalism can not be fixed, it must be overthrown through a real revolution. And if you don’t know why we need a revolution then you don’t know what you need to know. We urge everyone to dig into what is driving all the things that people hate and agonize over—go to @BobAvakianOfficial on social media platforms.

We are here to say to end the oppression that people suffer here and all over the world... including our immigrant sisters and brothers... because of the workings of this system of U.S. capitalism-imperialism—We Need and We Demand A Whole New Way to Live, A Fundamentally Different System.

We Need and We Demand : A Whole New Way to Live, A Fundamentally Different System


We Go Into Action

We issued a press release on Friday and again on Monday announcing our action for 1 pm, an hour before the City Council meeting was to start. We were in place at 1 pm. Three local stations sent TV cameras, and the Chicago Tribune and a local online news organization, Block Club Chicago, were also there. We also filmed and took our own photos. 

The action was simple and went very well. Leo from the Revcom Corps for the Emancipation of Humanity spoke, explaining our action by drawing from our points above. The Vietnam vet spoke powerfully about the breakdown of the army during the war. As the vet tore up one flag, Leo set another on fire, and it burned for a very long time in the metal container we brought. 

Vietnam vet rips up a flag before the April 1, 2024 Chicago City Council meeting.


Vietnam vet rips up a flag before the April 1, 2024 Chicago City Council meeting.    Photo: @RevComCorpsChi

After the protest we went inside and joined many supporters of Byron Sigcho-Lopez who packed the City Council chambers. Thirty minutes was allocated for the public to speak for three minutes each. We learned later that many others had wanted to speak, and those who were able were chosen by lottery. Most of the speakers were supporters of Sigcho-Lopez. There were a few reactionary Black people, whipped up by anti-immigrant sentiment in a narrow nationalist way, who spoke or yelled from the floor against Sigcho-Lopez.

One of the speakers, an older Latino man in a military uniform, spoke about knowing and supporting Zach, the vet who burned the flag on March 25. He tried to give some of his time for the vet who burned the flag to speak. When this was not allowed, Zach stood up from the audience and started speaking and was ejected from the council chambers. 

At this point we stood up and one of our members started speaking as we tore up paper flags we had brought into the meeting. We were then ejected, and we marched out throughout City Hall chanting “1, 2, 3, 4, Slavery Genocide and War! 5, 6, 7, 8, America Was Never Great!” A couple of young women joined us, as did a young man who met us outside and joined our flag-tearing action. Outside, we connected with the vet who had been kicked out. 

We learned that the debate among City Council members went on for another two hours after we were kicked out. The council voted down the resolution attacking Sigcho-Lopez by a 2 to 1 margin. While the City Council was still debating, footage of our flag burning action appeared on three TV stations. A Block Club Chicago photographer immediately tweeted out his photos of our action. Block Club, which has 224K followers on X, also posted his photos. A number of news articles about the City Council vote had photos of us tearing up the paper flags inside. Our flag burning action was the lead photo in the “This week in the news” on Block Club Chicago on X. Once the City Council resolution was defeated, the news shifted to the results of the vote and the coverage of our action in the main stopped. 

The Revcom Corps here in Chicago is fighting to get more widely known and to grow by leaps and bounds. With this action, we seized a moment and were able to get out some of what we stand for into the media in a big way. We also met five people during this action who expressed interest in learning more about the Revcom Corps for the Emancipation of Humanity, and as this correspondence was being written, Corps members were meeting with them.

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From the genocide in Gaza, to the growing threat of world war between nuclear powers, to escalating environmental devastation… the capitalist-imperialist system ruling over us is a horror for billions around the world and is tearing up the fabric of life on earth. Now the all-out battle within the U.S. ruling class, between fascist Republicans and war criminal Democrats, is coming to a head—likely during, or before, the coming elections—ripping society apart unlike anything since the Civil War. 

Bob Avakian (BA), revolutionary leader and author of the new communism, has developed a strategy to prepare for and make revolution. He’s scientifically analyzed that this is a rare time when an actual revolution has become more possible, and has laid out the sweeping vision, solid foundation and concrete blueprint for “what comes next,” in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America

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