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.  

https://revcom.us/i/602/July4-burntheflag-whitehouse.jpg

“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 DefendJohnsonOfTvJ@gmail.com.

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