CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The attorney for a protester arrested for burning a flag at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland says the city has agreed to pay $225,000 as part of a civil rights settlement.
Gregory Lee “Joey” Johnson was arrested on July 20, 2016 after he set fire to an American flag during a protest near an RNC security entrance. Police alleged that Johnson lit a flag on fire, lit himself on fire, and as a result, caught others in the crowd on fire.
The Cleveland Municipal Court dropped charges in 2017 after it was discovered that police falsely claimed that officers were attempting to extinguish a fire to Johnson.
Johnson filed a lawsuit against the city of Cleveland following the wrongful arrest.
A press conference with Johnson’s civil rights representatives, the Chandra Law Firm, was held on Tuesday afternoon.
“When Cleveland police unjustly and brutally arrested me and 15 others, they attacked the Supreme Court decision I won 30 years ago holding that flag burning in protest is a powerful form of constitutionally protected speech critical of the government,” Johnson said.
Johnson, of California, was the defendant in a landmark First Amendment dispute that was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1980s. The high court ruled in the 1989 case Texas v. Johnson that the burning of the American flag was protected by free speech after he burned a flag outside of the 1984 Republican National Convention in 1984.
“Instead of protecting RNC protesters’ constitutional rights, Cleveland police stalked them, literally extinguished their speech rights, and then arrested and prosecuted them—violating 30-year-old Supreme Court precedent taught to schoolchildren,” Johnson’s attorney, Subodh Chandra, stated.
This story will be updated following the conclusion of the press conference.