Man who won landmark flag-burning case sues Cleveland

Man who won landmark flag-burning case sues Cleveland
Officer holds partially-burned flag in downtown Cleveland on July 20, 2016. (Source: WOIO)
Photo from the July 20th protests in downtown Cleveland. It's unclear if this person was officially arrested or involved the flag burning incident.
Photo from the July 20th protests in downtown Cleveland. It's unclear if this person was officially arrested or involved the flag burning incident.
Photo from July 20th protests in downtown Cleveland. It's unclear if this person was officially arrested or involved the flag burning incident.
Photo from July 20th protests in downtown Cleveland. It's unclear if this person was officially arrested or involved the flag burning incident.

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A year-and-a-half after his arrest, Gregory Lee "Joey" Johnson has filed a lawsuit against the city of Cleveland.

Johnson was arrested on July 20, 2016 for flag burning at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

In 2017, the Cleveland Municipal Court threw out the prosecution on the grounds that Johnson was engaged in symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Johnson, of San Francisco was the Johnson in Texas v. Johnson, the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case establishing that burning the American flag is protected free speech.

He is a supporter of the "Revolutionary Communist Party" who protests what he perceives as American jingoism, imperialism, and capitalism. It was his flag-burning outside of the 1984 Republican National Convention that led to the Texas v. Johnson decision vindicating his rights. He came to Cleveland in the same spirit, this time to also protest the rising fascism represented by Donald Trump.

The lawsuit alleges that:

  1. Cleveland police officers arrested Mr. Johnson, falsely claiming that he set himself on fire, which video footage of the incident belies, and that
  2. after flailing about trying to find another theory for prosecuting Mr. Johnson, the police then relied on InfoWars representatives' demonstrably false claims that Mr. Johnson assaulted them.

At the time of the incident police said a protester lit a flag on fire, lit himself on fire, and in doing so caught others on fire. Firefighters extinguished the flames and there were no serious injuries.

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