Program Proposal:  2019 – 30th Anniversary of Texas V Johnson (1989) and the Right to Burn the American Flag in Protest – A Landmark Decision & Right Is Under Attack

Texas v Johnson (SCOTUS 1989) established burning the American flag in protest as constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.  However, the right to burn the flag in protest has come under renewed attack.

Gregory “Joey” Johnson, the named defendant in the case, is available to speak in law schools and colleges.  Johnson, a member of the Revolution Club, speaks unrepentantly about why he has burned the American flag in protest; his experiences as a defendant; the attacks on Texas v Johnson; the dangers of xenophobic and forced patriotism and the danger to rights of political dissent and the rule of law.

Johnson welcomes being joined by constitutional law professors, attorneys, and civil libertarians in panel discussions.

Background: On July 4,2019, in the face of Donald Trump’s militarist display of tanks and fighter jets flying over Washington, Johnson burned an American flag in front of the White House as part of the Revolution Club and the Get Organized for an Actual Revolution national tour’s Imagine a World Without America actions.  

“I am going to D.C. on the Fourth of July and I’m going to burn the flag in protest [of Trump’s] whole fascist agenda,” Gregory Johnson told USA TODAY.  Johnson told the Washington Post, “When I see that flag burn, I’m not only thinking of the children who are starved and bombed by the U.S. in Yemen, or the children who are torn from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Johnson said. “This is the workings of a system that the U.S. dominates . . . built on the plunder of literally billions of people around the world.”

In spite of the Supreme Court decision which bears his name, Johnson was arrested and criminally charged in the District of Columbia. The charges were dropped on September 10, 2019.

Johnson’s arrest followed on the heels of a June 2019 $225,000 settlement from the city of Cleveland, Ohio for a civil rights lawsuit for arresting and attempting to prosecute Johnson and 15 other protestors who burned an American flag outside the 2016 Republican National Convention as Trump was being nominated.  The New York Times noted, “Legal experts said they were surprised to learn that Mr. Johnson had been arrested again, in part because the legal precedent for flag burning is clear — and also because they were surprised by his commitment.”

Trump has threatened that anyone who burns the American flag in protest should stripped of their citizenship or imprisoned for a year.  He backs a Constitutional amendment to prohibit flag desecration; says pro athletes who refuse to stand for the national anthem should be removed from athletic events and “find another country to live in.”

Gregory Johnson is available to speak in law schools and colleges in the 2019/20 term. Student responses to Johnson speaking engagements are available here.  Reimbursement or honorarium is necessary.

To arrange a speaking engagement write

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City of Cleveland Pays $650,000 to 13 people wrongly arrested after American flag burned in protest outside 2016 Republican National Convention as Trump was nominated

Date: September 26, 2019 / For immediate release
Plaintiffs, members of the Revolution Club are available for press interviews.
Contact: Larry Everest 202 556 3906

Total settlements paid out by the City of Cleveland to protesters arrested after burning of American flag outside 2016 RNC have now reached close to 1 million dollars ($925,000).

This current round of settlements is in addition to $225,000 Cleveland paid out last June to Gregory “Joey” Johnson of the landmark 1989 Supreme Court case, Texas v Johnson which established flag burning in protest as constitutionally protected speech. Another arrested protester previously received a $50,000 settlement.

Plaintiff Rafael Kadaris stated, “Over three years ago we called out the fascism of Donald Trump, which is now on full display, from the cries of children in cages to the blood on the streets of El Paso. When do YOU say enough is enough? When we burned the American flag at the RNC we showed the world that there is a revolutionary force and leadership organizing to bring this whole rotten system down and bring a much better world into being. I plan to use my settlement money to advance that cause.”

Gregory “Joey” Johnson was also charged for burning the American flag on Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of the White House, during Trump’s July 4th “Salute to America” in a protest called “Imagine a World Without America.” Charges in the July 4th case were dismissed on September 10, 2019.

Johnson stated he burned the flag in Cleveland, “As Trump was delivering his fascist message of white supremacy, ‘law and order,’ scapegoating of immigrants, disgusting misogyny, and naked ‘America First’ chauvinism to the convention—outside, up against all this, the Revolution Club linked arms while I stood in the middle of the circle and lit the red, white and blue rag of imperialism on fire. Our message to the world— America was NEVER great! We Need to Overthrow this System.”

See MSNBC video: Revolution Club protests at RNC

These latest settlements confirm loudly what those arrested insisted all along: that the city of Cleveland’s police department and other law enforcement agencies violated the constitutional rights of the demonstrators. The amount of the settlements drowns out pro-forma statements from city officials that they “do not admit” to any wrong doing. Plaintiffs maintained that the city settled these cases
because they knew the arrests and prosecutions was an assault on the Supreme Court precedent that Johnson won 30 years ago and were afraid to have all this come out in trials.

The case of the RNC16 stemmed from a demonstration held as Trump was being nominated by the Republican National Convention as its presidential candidate. Cleveland police along with other state and federal agencies launched an unjust, vicious police assault to break up the protest. Altogether 16 Revolution Club members and other protesters were brutally arrested, dragged off to jail, and held for 24 hours until the RNC was over. Two protesters were hit with multiple felony charges. The police repeatedly lied to the media—changing their story about why the protestors were arrested—in spite of videos that show clearly it was the police that assaulted and endangered the protesters.

After a year-long legal and political battle and after an evidentiary hearing that put Cleveland’s police chief Williams on the stand, Judge Charles Patton dismissed the charges against 12 of the protesters noting in his ruling, “As in Johnson [Texas v Johnson], the prosecution in these cases, sub judice, seeks to sanction the defendants conduct under the disorderly conduct laws.” (Charges against 4 other defendants were dropped.)

The plaintiffs stated their appreciation for the attorneys who brought this suit from The Chandra Law Firm and the 40 volunteer attorneys who prevailed against the criminal charges facing the RNC 16. The latter were organized by the National Lawyers Guild in Ohio, (coordinated by Jacqueline Green and Sarah Gelsomino), and the NAACP.

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All Charges dropped in D.C. Superior Court Against Man Who Burned American Flag in Protest on Fourth of July in Front of White House

10 September 2019 For immediate release
Gregory “Joey” Johnson available for interviews
Contact: Larry Everest 202 556 3906

Flagburner was Gregory “Joey” Johnson, Defendant in Landmark Supreme Court, Texas v Johnson (1989)

Johnson said July 4th Flag Burning was an “Imagine a World Without America” Protest

The District of Columbia Attorney General today filed papers dismissing all charges against Gregory “Joey” Johnson. Johnson was arrested after he burned two American flags on July 4, 2019 in front of the White House in opposition to Trump, his “Salute to America”, and everything America stands for historically and today. A video captured the dramatic protest.

Johnson was represented in the case by attorney Mark Goldstone. Goldstone and the ACLU of the District of Columbia sent a letter to the Office of the Attorney General insisting that Johnson’s flag burning was constitutionally protected speech and demanded that charges against him be dropped.

Johnson, joined by members of the Revolution Club and the Get Organized for an Actual Revolution National Tour was part of a July 4th protest “Imagine a World without America! A Call to Act!

Johnson stated that he should never have been brutally arrested, thrown to the ground and held overnight for exercising a constitutional right he established in the 1989 Supreme Court case (Texas v. Johnson). Trump has repeatedly called for outlawing flag burning and re-tweeted a Breitbart meme of Johnson’s flag burning outside the White House on July 4th.

Just weeks before his arrest in D.C., in June 2019, Johnson won a $225,000 legal settlement from the City of Cleveland stemming from his 2016 arrest for burning an American flag at the Republican Convention as Trump was being nominated. (Cleveland Is Paying $225,000 to a Man Who Burned the American FlagThe New York Times, June 15)

Johnson stated, “As Trump posed with tanks and fighter jet flyovers for his Nuremberg style rally, I burned the American flag in protest of his whole fascist agenda. America was never great.”

“When I see that flag burn, I’m not only thinking of the children who are starved and bombed by the U.S. in Yemen, or the children who are torn from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border,” he said to the Washington Post “This is the workings of a system . . . built on the plunder of literally billions of people around the world.”
Joey Johnson is an active member of the Revolution Club and a follower of the revolutionary communist leader Bob Avakian. For more go to

Media coverage / background: JULY 4 2019 IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT AMERICA: A Call to Act

5 min VIDEO: Joey Johnson on why he still burns the flag, how selling “Stars and Stripes” newspaper as an “Army brat” youth opened his eyes, and whether he considers himself an American.

Washington Examiner, June 24 “’Burn that rag!’ Activists to desecrate the flag at Trump July Fourth rally

New York Times June 15 Cleveland Is Paying $225,000 to a Man Who Burned the American Flag

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2019: Student Responses to Speaking Engagements by Gregory “Joey” Johnson:

Thank you again for your talk, it was really a powerful and well-prepared speech… From what I understood, the basic idea of your speech was involuntary patriotism is a dangerous ideal and must be opposed and further that the system we live in is failing. I could not agree more with the first premise about involuntary patriotism and that is why I was always in supported of the right to burn a private individual’s flag as a means of protest. 

Your means of presenting was great and the background you provided about the case was eye-opening. The (artists) amicus brief you brought planted in my mind that there can be more to a legal argument than well-worded prose and I am sure I will find a way to incorporate that into my practice. It works well with your burning of the flag as both were unconventional arguments that resulted in meaningful change. Your recent personal experiences at the RNC and being arrested a second time for burning the flag was also a great way to show that your fight is just starting. 

When I chose to come to your speech, I was not expecting an all-out attack of the capitalist system or the existence of national borders. I wish I came more prepared for these concepts so I could have asked better questioned or taken better notes. While I am still struggling to establish my political framework, the facts and ideas you presented will provide a great foundation. I will also read more writings by Bob Avakian, as you recommended, just as soon as I can get some time away from my course works.

From a student at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago, Spring 2019


“It was wonderful! Even if the narrative of the USA being imperialist to the core is not (a) new event within the walls of this school, it is refreshing to see the concept contextualized within the framework of Free Speech and the First Amendment…It also seemed oddly personal for both speakers, which is a welcome change for events such as this,

I found that Mr. Johnson was able to communicate truly radical ideas that are often either neglected or censored in law school, especially with the discussion of imperialism and promoting a socialist vision of the USA. It’s refreshing and transformative. I found that Professor Strossen’s conceptualization of Mr. Johnson’s narrative, and the legal and sociopolitical rationale behind it, to be very fascinating. As always Professor Strossen covers complex ideas in a straightforward manner that does not dilute the complexity of the ideas…”

From a student at New York Law School, Spring 2019


The American Constitution Society thoroughly enjoyed having Gregory “Joey” Johnson at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. We held a panel, “Free Speech and Social Movements in the Age of Trump,” where Joey was a panelist. As law students, we read about the legal doctrine behind cases but we rarely get to hear from the plaintiffs themselves. Joey provided his captivating story to our audience to give us a more human element to the case of Texas v. Johnson. We also heard from his experience at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Being able to hear his story reminds us all that the principles of the First Amendment, including free speech and the right to protest, are more important than ever, especially in Trump’s America.

A student at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Columbus, Ohio (2017 event)


Dear fellow law students and professors,

In October 2016 we organized a screening of “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” at the University of California, Berkeley and invited Mr. Gregory “Joey” Johnson as a guest speaker. The movie is about the life and works of the criminal defense lawyer and political activist William Kunstler. It shows his work as a lawyer defending activists during the civil rights movement, the Native Americans uprising at Wounded Knee, radical politicians and other controversial clients. Mr. Johnson, who was charged for burning the American flag and represented by Mr. Kunstler in Texas v. Johnson, gave us a great insight into his case and shared his perspective as a political activist and client of Mr. Kunstler. We were very grateful to have Mr. Johnson with us after the screening as many law students felt inspired by Mr. Johnson’s experiences. 

Two students at University of California, Berkeley, Winter 2017

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Message from Gregory Joey Johnson

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#JULY4BURNFLAG — Imagine a World without America! A Call to Act!

I am Gregory “Joey” Johnson. I was the defendant in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Texas V. Johnson that decided burning the American flag in protest is constitutionally protected speech. I support and endorse this call from the National Revolution Tour and the Revolution Club.

On July 4, 1852, the great anti-slavery fighter Frederick Douglass said:

“…[For] revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

As we approach July 4, 2019…the American flag flies over concentration camps on the border,blesses the bombs and planes and troops that have murdered and mangled hundreds of thousands of children, it flies over the pens that mass incarcerate people, especially Black, Latino, or Native American. It is pasted on the derricks that drill into the earth and destroy the environment. It is on the lapels of the legislators who rip from women the right to control their own bodies. It is waved by the shameless fascist jackal who struts as president and who plans to bray and grunt a “speech” that day in Washington, DC.

We echo Frederick Douglass and say: “‘Barbarity and hypocrisy’? Truer words were never spoken — whether back then, today, or all through U.S. history.

And we echo and stand with the leader of the revolution today, Bob Avakian, when he says:

“If you can conceive of a world without America — without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world — then you’ve already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world. If you can envision a world without any imperialism, exploitation, oppression — and the whole philosophy that rationalizes it — a world without division into classes or even different nations, and all the narrow-minded, selfish, outmoded ideas that uphold this; if you can envision all this, then you have the basis for proletarian internationalism. And once you have raised your sights to all this, how could you not feel compelled to take an active part in the world historic struggle to realize it; why would you want to lower your sights to anything less? “

This year, we invite you to “conceive of a world without America,” and to fight for that world. This year, on this July 4th, this flag of “barbarity and hypocrisy” will burn in symbolic places around this country. In a bold statement of truth and a clarion call to revolution and the emancipation of ALL humanity.

Be part of this. Spread the word through social media #July4BurnFlag. And do your own flag-burning on that day where you are. Another world IS possible — if we dare to fight for it.

And now I want to add this, Trump is planning a big fascist rally on July 4 in Washington D.C around the theme of making America white again, xenophobic, jingoistic, and militaristic: all so dangerous to humanity. So listen up, Trump! On July 4, I’m going to be in D.C. as part of the movement to burn the American Flag in different places that symbolize the reality of what this flag stands for in a way and in a place that will be quite legal but which will unmistakably challenge and expose your whole fascist regime and agenda.

Find me on twitter @Joey4revolution

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#July4FlagBurn Imagine a World without America! A Call to Act!

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