Man arrested for RNC flag burning set Supreme Court precedent

Posted at 11:59 PM, Jul 20, 2016

One of the 17 people arrested after a flag burning incident on Wednesday was part of the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled flag burning as protected speech. 

According to a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, Gregory Lee “Joey” Johnson and 13 other members of the party were arrested in the incident on E. 4th and Prospect. 

Johnson was the defendant in the U.S. Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson (1989) after during a flag during the 1984 RNC in Dallas Texas. 

In a 5-4 decision the court said Johnson’s conviction was inconsistent with the First Amendment, invalidating the laws in 47 other states. 

On Wednesday, Cleveland police said “a protester lit the flag on fire, then lit himself on fire, catching others on fire.”

Police said a fight broke out and police issued an order to disperse around 4:50 p.m. By 6:15, 17 people had been arrested. 

But the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild tells that 20 legal observers working in the area did not see the protester light anyone on fire and did not hear an order to disperse. 

“We do not have any witnesses who witnesses a dispersal order,” said Jacqueline Greene of the Ohio Chapter of the NLG. 

Greene said flag burning arrests are a special concern for the NLG because of their status as protected free speech. 

“We’ll be watching to see whether or not the Cleveland Division of Police and the various law enforcement agencies under their control during the RNC continue to engage or fail to engage in constitutional policing,” she said. 

By the end of the night Wednesday, the arrest total had risen to 18 people, for a total of 23 people arrested during the convention so far.