Drop the Charges on Gregory “Joey” Johnson and RNC16 Now!
On July 20 outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Gregory “Joey” Johnson was surrounded by a circle of members of the Revolution Club who created a safe space for him to burn the American flag. The area was crowded with many police and pro-Trump people. Police assaulted the protective circle, arresting Joey and 16 others as the flag started to burn. They face serious charges. As the fact sheet circulated by Joey Johnson’s supporters convincingly shows, the arrests of him and 16 others were totally unjustified and illegitimate attempts to suppress legally protected political speech, as were the 24-hour-plus illegal detentions that followed.
Before setting the flag on fire, Joey led chants, “1, 2, 3, 4—Slavery, Genocide, and War! 5, 6, 7, 8— America Was NEVER Great!” Johnson said he decided to burn the flag to make a statement about what was unfolding inside the RNC where the theme that day was “make America #1 again.” Joey said, “America number 1? America first? It’s always been first: at genocide, at slavery, at exploitation, of destruction of the environment, of torture, of coup d’etats, of invasions. We’re standing here with the people of the world today.” In addition, Johnson stated that a real revolution is what is needed, nothing less. Then he lit the flag on fire. As Johnson explained his and the Revolution Club’s protest that day, “There are moments in history when someone has to put it on the line to sound the alarm.”
Johnson won the right to burn the flag against enforced patriotism in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1989 landmark decision, Texas v. Johnson. For the police to effectively nullify this right in actual practice undermines this decision at a time when it is more imperative than ever to protect the right to dissent. The charges against Johnson and the RNC16 have to be decisively defeated. The authorities must not be allowed to get away with circumventing, distorting, punishing, and criminalizing this defining act of protest.
We the undersigned call for the charges against Gregory “Joey” Johnson and all those arrested with him at the RNC be dropped immediately.
This message is co-hosted by The Revolution Club & World Can’t Wait
Fr. Luis Barrios, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
Robert Bloom, attorney, 1971 case of Panther 21
Richard Brown, Black Panther Party, San Francisco 8
Jeffrey L. Edison, attorney, Detroit
Anneliese Failla, National Lawyers Guild* Detroit
Clinton Fein, artist/activist
Robert Justin Goldstein, Author, Flag Burning & Free Speech: Texas v. Johnson (Univ. Press of KS, 2000)
William Goodman, attorney, National Lawyers Guild*
Mickey Huff, Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation
Daniel Hurwitz-Goodman, Guatemala Solidarity Project*
Nicholas Klaus, National Lawyers Guild*
Michael Kogan, attorney, Los Angeles
Sarah Kunstler, attorney, New York City
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director Emeritus, National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles
Peter Phillips, Phd.
Margaret Ratner Kunstler
David Rovics, singer/songwriter
Eric A. Seitz, attorney, Honolulu
J. Tony Serra, attorney, San Francisco