Press Release: October 24, 2017

Cleveland Municipal Court Dismisses 12 Cases Against RNC Protesters

Judge rules all 12 arrests unconstitutional violations of protestors’ First Amendment rights.

October 24, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

CLEVELAND, OHIO ― On October 20, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Charles L. Patton dismissed all charges against 12 activists who were arrested and charged with violations of aggravated disorderly conduct and obstruction ordinances after they participated in a flag burning action during the Republican National Convention in July 2016. Last fall, the protesters filed motions to dismiss the charges, arguing the arrests violated their First Amendment rights because the ordinances were unconstitutionally applied to them and their arrests imposed unconstitutional prior restraints on their freedom of speech and assembly.

Burning the flag has long been indisputably recognized as a free speech activity, protected by the First Amendment. At a January 2017 hearing on these motions, Chief of Police Calvin Williams acknowledged that flag burning was legal. Citing Supreme Court precedent, Judge Patton’s order reads, in part, “The government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even where our flag is involved… If there is a bedrock principle underlying the first amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea without more that removes the idea from the First Amendment’s protection.”

“Judge Patton made the right decision in declaring these arrests unconstitutional and dismissing all charges, as the City of Cleveland targeted and arrested activists legitimately engaged in free speech,” said attorney Jacqueline Greene, partner at the law firm of Friedman and Gilbert and one of the lawyers representing the charged activists. “This should be read as a clear message to the City—and particularly to the police—that they must respect the First Amendment rights of protesters, whatever their message.”

“Our freedoms of speech and assembly are bedrock principles of this county. The City of Cleveland was obligated under the law to protect the rights of protesters; instead it charged them with crimes in retaliation for their speech, in an attempt to cover up the unconstitutional actions of the police. Such egregious attacks on our democratic principles cannot be tolerated,” said Sarah Gelsomino, also a partner at the law firm of Friedman and Gilbert and one of the lawyers representing the charged activists.

“We are thrilled that the Court saw these arrests for what they were: quashing dissent. We are proud of what we did at the RNC and that we stood up to the suppression of speech. Dismissal was the only just outcome after we suffered from the City of Cleveland’s aggressive arrests, days in detention, and almost a year and a half of ongoing prosecution—when we had committed no crime,” said Noche Diaz, one of the 12 protesters whose charges were dismissed.

The events leading to these arrests and subsequent criminal charges occurred during the Republican National Convention, held in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18 through 21, 2016. On the afternoon of July 20, 2016, dozens of protesters gathered near East 4th Street and Prospect Avenue with the purpose of burning an American flag as an expression of their political views in protest of the Republican Party and then-presidential nominee Trump.

The City of Cleveland intervened immediately as the flag was lit. Chief of Police Calvin Williams and several other officers pushed into the circle of protesters. The Cleveland Division of Police subsequently arrested sixteen people, held them in jail for approximately 30 hours, and filed criminal charges. This intervention, as Judge Patton ruled today, violated their constitutional rights, including the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association and assembly.

Every single criminal charge against RNC protesters has now been dismissed. In January 2017, the City of Cleveland dismissed criminal charges against two other RNC Protesters, including Gregory “Joey” Johnson, defendant in the 1989 Supreme Court case that declared flag burning to be protected speech activity under the First Amendment. In September, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley dropped all felony charges filed against two protesters who also participated in the flag burning. The two protesters were charged with assaulting a police officer, obstruction, and resisting arrest.

“We stood at the gates of the RNC the same day Donald Trump was selected as the Republican candidate for president. We burned the American Flag and declared ‘America was Never Great!’ The State targeted us for our message and stopped us from exercising our rights in sounding the alarm on the unfolding nightmare of the Trump/Pence fascist regime,” Johnson said.

More than 40 local attorneys with the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, and other affiliated lawyers volunteered to defend protesters’ rights during the RNC on a pro bono basis.


youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EuSKGixBdQ?rel=0

One of the protesters, Rafael, had this to say in an interview (above) from the RNC: “We’re here at the RNC because the eyes of the world are on Cleveland… The fact that Donald Trump, an open racist, someone who says he’s a candidate of law and order, which means more and more police brutality, more and more mass incarceration of Black and Latino people; the fact that this system has elevated an openly, essentially fascist candidate and treated this election as just another legitimate election shows that the whole system is illegitimate. ….  We’re bringing the message straight into this convention that “America Was NEVER Great”

Joey Johnson and the Revolution Club at the Republican Convention, July 20, 2016.
Photo: special to revcom.us

November 29, 2016, Donald Trump tweeted that “nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag,” and that those who do should face loss of citizenship or a year in jail.

Joey Johnson of the Revolution Club said, “This is another move towards outright fascism and it cannot be allowed! Trump advocates torture and has utter contempt for the rule of law. He is openly trying to muzzle dissent and enforce patriotism.”

10 reasons to DISrespect the national anthem… and to BURN THE DAMN FLAG
Go here for 10 memes— and reasons— to share on social media and more!

 

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Misdemeanor charges dropped against RNC16! ALL charges have now been dropped against ALL defendants!

Great news!

Below is the press release being issued by the lawyers about the dismissals in the RNC16 misdemeanor cases.  This means that ALL the charges have been dismissed against ALL the RNC16 defendants!

This is an important victory – as the RNC16 have said — we had a right to do it and it was the right thing to do!  The FLAG BURNING political action on July 20 by the Revolution Club and their supporters was prescient – they were sounding the alarm even before the Trump/Pence regime came to power – and now as millions agonize as to what it does mean that they are now in the White House – the horrors it is means for humanity and the potential destruction of the planet.  The message from that day now must further resonate -In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept A Fascist America!  Nov 4th It Begins – the Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

Hope to see you all Saturday, Nov 4, 1 pm on Public Square!

 

———————————

Press Release:                        October 24, 2017

 

For more information:   Jacqueline Greene, Sarah Gelsomino (216) 241-1430

Cleveland Municipal Court Dismisses 12 Cases Against RNC Protesters

Judge rules all 12 arrests unconstitutional violations of protestors’ First Amendment rights.

 

CLEVELAND, OHIO ― On October 20, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Charles L. Patton dismissed all charges against 12 activists who were arrested and charged with violations of aggravated disorderly conduct and obstruction ordinances after they participated in a flag burning action during the Republic National Convention in July 2016. Last fall, the protesters filed motions to dismiss the charges, arguing the arrests violated their First Amendment rights because the ordinances were unconstitutionally applied to them and their arrests imposed unconstitutional prior restraints on their freedom of speech and assembly.

 

Burning the flag has long been indisputably recognized as a free speech activity, protected by the First Amendment. At a January 2017 hearing on these motions, Chief of Police Calvin Williams acknowledged that flag burning was legal. Citing Supreme Court precedent, Judge Patton’s order reads, in part, “The government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even where our flag is involved…If there is a bedrock principle underlying the first amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea without more that removes the idea from the First Amendment’s protection.”

 

“Judge Patton made the right decision in declaring these arrests unconstitutional and dismissing all charges, as the City of Cleveland targeted and arrested activists legitimately engaged in free speech,” said attorney Jacqueline Greene, partner at the law firm of Friedman and Gilbert and one of the lawyers representing the charged activists. “This should be read as a clear message to the City – and particularly to the police – that they must respect the First Amendment rights of protesters, whatever their message.”

 

“Our freedoms of speech and assembly are bedrock principles of this county. The City of Cleveland was obligated under the law to protect the rights of protesters; instead it charged them with crimes in retaliation for their speech, in an attempt to cover up the unconstitutional actions of the police. Such egregious attacks on our democratic principles cannot be tolerated,” said Sarah Gelsomino, also a partner at the law firm of Friedman and Gilbert and one of the lawyers representing the charged activists.

 

“We are thrilled that the Court saw these arrests for what they were: quashing dissent. We are proud of what we did at the RNC and that we stood up to the suppression of speech. Dismissal was the only just outcome after we suffered from the City of Cleveland’s aggressive arrests, days in detention, and almost a year and a half of ongoing prosecution — when we had committed no crime,” said Noche Diaz, one of the 12 protesters whose charges were dismissed.

 

The events leading to these arrests and subsequent criminal charges occurred during the Republican National Convention, held in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18 through 21, 2016. On the afternoon of July 20, 2016, dozens of protesters gathered near East 4th Street and Prospect Avenue with the purpose of burning an American flag as an expression of their political views in protest of the Republican Party and then-presidential nominee Trump.

 

The City of Cleveland intervened immediately as the flag was lit. Chief of Police Calvin Williams and several other officers pushed into the circle of protesters. The Cleveland Division of Police subsequently arrested sixteen people, held them in jail for approximately 30 hours, and filed criminal charges. This intervention, as Judge Patton ruled today, violated their constitutional rights, including the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association and assembly.

 

Every single criminal charge against RNC protesters has now been dismissed. In January 2017, the City of Cleveland dismissed criminal charges against two other RNC Protesters, including Gregory “Joey” Johnson, defendant in the 1989 Supreme Court case that declared flag burning to be protected speech activity under the First Amendment. In September, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley dropped all felony charges filed against two protesters who also participated in the flag burning. The two protesters were charged with assaulting a police officer, obstruction, and resisting arrest.

 

“We stood at the gates of the RNC the same day Donald Trump was selected as the Republican candidate for president. We burned the American Flag and declared ‘America was Never Great!’ The State targeted us for our message and stopped us from exercising our rights in sounding the alarm on the unfolding nightmare of the Trump/Pence fascist regime,” Johnson said.

 

More than 40 local attorneys with the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, and other affiliated lawyers volunteered to defend protesters’ rights during the RNC on a pro bono basis. The twelve protestors whose cases were dismissed today are listed below, along with the attorneys who represented them.

 

Victory in the RNC 16 Case. Felony Charges Against Republican Convention Flag-Burners Dropped

September 17, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

On September 13, all the charges were dropped against Bo and Niko! They are the two defendants who were facing felony charges arising out of righteous burning of the American flag by Gregory “Joey” Johnson and the Revolution Club outside the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio. (Johnson is the same Johnson of the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case of Texas v. Johnson that established flag burning as constitutionally protected speech.)

One week before the trial was to start, the Cuyahoga County prosecutors were forced to drop multiple felony charges, including assault on police, and misdemeanor charges against Bo and Niko. If convicted, these charges could have resulted in four to seven years in jail. Now there are 12 remaining defendants of the RNC 16 facing multiple misdemeanor charges. Let’s build off this important victory and fight through with the demand: Drop all the remaining charges against the RNC 16 NOW!

“We’re standing with the people of the world today!”

On July 20, 2016, in protest of Trump’s nomination, Gregory “Joey” Johnson along with the Revolution Club went right up to the gates of the Republican National Convention and declared: “We’re standing with the people of the world today!… Donald Trump is an open fascist. Hillary Clinton is a proven war criminal. We’re not following either one of their leaders…. America No. 1? America First? It always has been first: at genocide, at slavery, at exploitation, at destruction of the environment, at torture…. We’re standing here with the people of the world today.” Then Joey Johnson lit the American flag as he stood in the middle of a safety circle of the Revolution Club who chanted “1, 2, 3, 4, Slavery, Genocide and War! 5, 6, 7, 8—America Was NEVER Great!”

The beautiful and audacious protest took place on the day the RNC selected Donald Trump as its presidential candidate under the slogan “Make America Great Again” and a fascist program of law and order, white supremacy, build the wall scapegoating of immigrants and Muslims, disgusting misogyny and unbridled wars of aggression.

Brutal Assault by Police and Fascist Thugs & Vindictive Prosecution of the RNC 16

This protest was met with a pre-planned, pre-emptive, massive brutal police assault AND assault by fascist thugs. This illegal assault foreshadowed how the fascist regime of Trump (even before coming to power) would treat political protest.

After this brutal yet failed attempt to prevent Joey Johnson and the Revolution Club from burning the American flag, the prosecutors piled on charges against the 16 protesters arrested. In Bo and Niko’s cases, they were initially charged with one felony and several misdemeanors each. Two weeks after their arrests, the prosecutor went before the grand jury and added two additional felony charges against Bo. (This was the same prosecutor who went to the grand jury a year and a half after the murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and failed to get an indictment of the killer cop!) This made it clear that the state intended to prosecute and further punish the RNC 16 and to send a message that political dissent would be suppressed, criminalized, and punished.

RNC 16 Proudly Stand Firm in Face of Serious Charges

In the face of this serious multitude of charges hanging over their heads, the RNC 16 stood firm. As Niko stated before his scheduled trial, “I stand by what I did. I am proud of what we accomplished standing with the people of the world!! Calling out and sounding the alarm about the fascism of the Trump regime. I got to be part of that.”

The National Lawyers Guild of Ohio recruited over 35 lawyers who volunteered to represent the RNC 16 defendants pro bono (without payment). From the beginning, the RNC 16 made clear to all their attorneys that they were united in having a common legal defense and they wanted to work closely with the attorneys on their legal defense. They also shared with the attorneys that they saw building political support broadly in society for their case as an important component of the fight to get all the charges dropped. (See “RNC 16 Put the Pigs on Trial: People’s Tribunal Finds the System GUILTY!”)

Legal Case Goes on the Offensive—Putting the Cops and the System on Trial

The message from the defendants and their attorneys in preparing their legal defense was that they would be putting the police and the system on trial for the illegal actions of the police on July 20. The RNC 16 stated from the very beginning of this battle to Free the RNC 16 that not only did they have the right to burn the American flag as politically protected speech, it was the right thing to do. An important element of their legal defense is that the timing, location and message of this protest were all legal, and that the massive and illegal assault unleashed against this protest was aimed at suppressing the extremely important political statement of the protest to the world. The prosecutors throughout these legal proceedings have attempted (unsuccessfully to date) to prevent the RNC 16 attorneys from bringing this key component, the political message of the protests, into their legal defense.

In January 2017, there were two significant developments in this legal battle. First, the charges against Joey Johnson and one other RNC defendant were dropped. During the flag burning protest, the cops and two fascists physically assaulted Joey Johnson. The two thugs publicly bragged about punching and kicking Joey in an interview with Alex Jones posted online later that same evening. Not only were these thug provocateurs NOT charged with the assault on Joey, but based on their claim that they were “burned” in attempting to put out the flag burning—an act violating the constitutional right to protest by burning the flag—they became the “victims” for which the prosecutors charged Joey and one other protester with assault! These fascists admitted to assaulting Joey and bragged that they went to stop him from burning the flag, yet the authorities pressed charges against Joey and another defendant for assault against these two fascist thugs! The prosecutor was presented with this video confession which showed that these fascist thugs were lying and admitting they assaulted Joey. These bogus charges were finally dropped six months later.

The second significant development was a hearing on a motion to dismiss the charges on the remaining 12 defendants facing misdemeanor charges. In a courtroom packed with the RNC 16 defendants, attorneys, supporters, and several media outlets that came and recorded the entire hearing, the defense attorneys presented a compelling case as to why all the charges against these 12 defendants should be dismissed. This included putting on the stand Cleveland Police Chief Williams and a police lieutenant who were subpoenaed (ordered) to appear. They testified with their “alternative facts” and spun their outrageous and at times ridiculous lies and justifications for the illegal, pre-emptive, brutal assault and arrests of the defendants. This was challenged and exposed throughout their testimony by the RNC 16 attorney. To read more about this hearing go here. These 12 RNC defendants have been waiting over seven months for the judge to rule on this motion to dismiss all their charges.

Felony Trial Set to Begin

The felony trial was set for September 19. A few days before the last pre-trial hearing, the attorneys for Bo and Niko contacted the prosecutor. Their message was that the only resolution that would be acceptable to the defendants was a complete dismissal of all charges and this should be done prior to the commencement of trial. If the prosecutor refused to dismiss all the charges, Bo and Niko’s attorneys were prepared to mount an aggressive defense exposing how the police assaulted the defendants as part of an illegal attack on the RNC 16’s right to carry out the flag burning aimed at silencing the message in burning the flag.

Political Support for the RNC 16

From the outset of the RNC 16 case, a crucial component of the fight to free the RNC 16 has been building support for the case broadly in society. The defendants have spoken on college campuses including to law students, to religious gatherings and groups fighting for social justice. They have gone to neighborhoods and the housing projects in Cleveland and across the country. There is a Free the RNC 16 Support Committee in Cleveland. As part of these efforts, people from across the country have and continue to be mobilized to call the prosecutors’ offices to demand ALL the charges be dropped. The fact that Joey Johnson, who burned the flag at the RNC and was assaulted and arrested, is the same Johnson in the landmark Supreme Court case that established flag burning as protected political speech, has sparked more interest, outrage and support for this case, including with the media. Both the flag burning protest against Trump and his fascist program on July 20 and the political persecution of the RNC 16 has been covered by media outlets from around the world.

In anticipation of the trial of Bo and Niko, a call was put out to make a new round of calls to the prosecutor’s office to demand the charges be dropped. On the day of their pre-trial hearing, the prosecutor’s office was inundated with calls.

Prosecutors Back Down

On September 13, the prosecutors backed down and dismissed all the charges with prejudice (which means the prosecutors cannot file any charges against Bo and Niko in connection to the July 20 protest). Several of the attorneys for the RNC 16 commented on how this was quite unprecedented. In their collective legal experience, including some with decades of cases against police brutality, the dismissal of charges of felony assault on cops is rare.

Significance of This Victory

The prosecution of the RNC 16 has great stakes in the context of the Trump/Pence regime moving to consolidate a fascist America, aimed at silencing and intimidating all those who have been drawn into motion to stop this. They were beaten back in their attempts to do so with the dismissal of these serious felony charges and the earlier dismissal of the charges against Joey and another RNC 16 defendant.

As a recent article on revcom.us wrote regarding the stakes and consequences of the RNC 16:

On November 29, 2016, Donald Trump tweeted a dangerous threat: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American Flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail.” During his campaign rallies, Trump openly longed for the days when protesters were “carried out on stretchers.” Since Trump’s inauguration, state laws have been passed or are pending to criminalize peaceful forms of political protests, including giving immunity to drivers who run over protesters who are in the streets or highways as long as it is “an accident.” The NRA has made videos calling their followers to attack those resisting and protesting against the Trump/Pence regime, including specifically targeting people who burn the American flag.

As one of the RNC attorneys wrote after this dismissal, “In my view, the dismissals that have already occurred and the one we hope to accomplish, have a greater significance than a First Amendment issue. The arrests of the RNC 16 was the first ‘official’ authoritarian efforts to suppress dissent in the era of Trump. A total victory is necessary because Trump will suck the oxygen out of the room if given a chance.”

Bo and Niko issued a joint statement after their charges were dropped: “We are very proud of what we did at the RNC, standing with the people of the world. We were sounding the alarm against the Trump regime. We demand that the charges against the remaining 12 RNC defendants be dropped immediately! We call on others to join us in the fight to drive out the Trump/Pence regime as part of the fight for a whole better world.”

Let’s celebrate this victory and step up the fight to free the remaining courageous and defiant RNC 16!

DROP THE CHARGES NOW AGAINST THE REMAINING RNC 16 DEFENDANTS!

FREE THE RNC 16! 

What you can do:

• Demand that ALL charges be dropped NOW!

Kimberly Barnett-Mills
Chief  Prosecutor
City of Cleveland
Phone: 216 664-4850 and 216 664-4807
Fax: 216 664-4399

RNC16 Celebration Potluck! Sunday, Sept 17

RNC16 Celebration Potluck!

Charges Dropped by Prosecutor

Sunday, Sept 17 at 3:30 pm

Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland

2728 Lancashire Rd, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44106
Bring a dish to share, and bring your friends as we
WELCOME, MEET, and CELEBRATE with the RNC16 defendants!
Break bread, enjoy good conversation, poetry, film, and music.

On September 13, Cleveland prosecutors were forced to drop the felony charges against Dominique “Niko” Knox and Joe “Bo” Scogin, after over a year of persecution!

This is a big defeat for Trump, another thing to celebrate!

Joey Johnson, who won the 1989 Supreme Court case making it protected speech to burn the flag and one of the RNC16, will be celebrating with us at the potluck.

“Just tell Trump, Pence and the rest of those fascists that we’re just getting started. Wait ’til November 4!” said Johnson, referring to a day when daily mass demonstrations are planned to begin all across the country demanding the ouster of Trump and Pence.

Press Conference Thur 9-14 @ 4pm Cleveland Prosecutors Drop Felony Charges Against RNC16!

Press Release
Contact: 216 225-2267
September 13, 2017
Press Conference
Thursday, September 14, 2017
4:00 pm. 
(IN) Justice Center
Lakeside Entrance (off Ontario)
Cleveland OH 44113

Cleveland Prosecutors Drop Felony Charges Against Republican Convention Flag-Burners

“Big Defeat For Trump,” Says Flag Burner Joey Johnson


Cleveland prosecutors were forced to drop felony charges against Dominique “Niko” Knox and Joe “Bo” Scogin on Wednesday, after over a year of persecution.  “Niko and Bo are free,” said Joey Johnson, who won the 1989 Supreme Court case making it protected speech to burn the flag.
Johnson and the two defendants will hold a press conference tomorrow September 14 at 4 p.m. at the (IN)Justice Center Lakeside Entrance Cleveland, OH.  Johnson would not say whether they would burn flags in celebration.  “Just tell Trump, Pence and the rest of those fascists that we’re just getting started.  Wait ’til November 4!” said Johnson, referring to a day when daily mass demonstrations are planned to begin all across the country demanding the ouster of Trump and Pence.

September 19: Pack the Courtroom for the RNC16! Drop the Charges

Tuesday, September 19  facebook event

8 am

INJustice Center, Ontario & Lakeside

Be there to pack the courtroom!  Spread the word!

 

At the gates of Trump’s coronation and in the face of a massive and brutal police assault and of fascist thugs, and before hundreds of international media, the RNC 16 stood up for the people of the world. These beautiful and courageous brothers and sisters must be defended and the powers that be must not be allowed to punish them for the so-called crime of telling the truth. They acted in the name of humanity and now all of us are being called on and challenged to do the same. Join in this fight: DROP THE CHARGES ON THE RNC 16!

 

 

As Repression and Threats Against Dissent Grow… Two Protesters Face Felonies in Cleveland for Burning Flag at Republican National Convention

September 4, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

On September 19, two of the RNC 16 defendants are going to trial in Cleveland, Ohio. They are facing serious felony charges. The RNC16 are 16 protesters who were arrested for burning an American flag on July 20, 2016 during a righteous political protest outside the entrance of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on the very day the RNC selected Donald Trump to be its presidential candidate. Donald Trump campaigned under the slogan “Make America Great Again” and the fascist program of law and order, white supremacy, “build the wall” scapegoating of immigrants and Muslims, disgusting misogyny, and unbridled wars of aggression.

The way the authorities and fascist stormtroopers attacked these protesters was a harbinger of what has happened since then: physical assaults and heavy charges against people exercising their basic right to protest, including the righteous and protected speech of burning the American flag. What happens in this case has big stakes for what happens in the struggle against the fascist consolidation of the Trump/Pence regime and their Nazi minions. Those who are being prosecuted for protesting the Trump/Pence regime must be defended.

“We’re standing with the people of the world today!”

On July 20, 2016, in protest of Trump’s nomination, Gregory “Joey” Johnson along with the Revolution Club went right up to the gates of the Republican National Convention and declared: “We’re standing with the people of the world today!… Donald Trump is an open fascist. Hillary Clinton is a proven war criminal. We’re not following either one of their leaders…. America No. 1? America First? It always has been first: at genocide, at slavery, at exploitation, at destruction of the environment, at torture….We’re standing here with the people of the world today.” Then Joey Johnson lit the American flag as he stood in the middle of a safety circle of the Revolution Club who chanted “1, 2, 3, 4, Slavery, Genocide and War! 5, 6, 7, 8—America Was NEVER Great!” (Johnson is the same Johnson of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Texas v. Johnson that established flag burning as constitutionally protected speech in 1989.)

Even before the flag was lit, a mob of police and fascist thugs brutally attacked those in the safety circle. Sixteen of the protesters were arrested and charged with serious felony and misdemeanor charges. The two protesters going on trial on September 19 are charged with a total of five felonies and two misdemeanors and face up to three to four years each in prison. There are 12 other defendants who face numerous misdemeanor charges.

The response to this protest foreshadowed how this fascist regime (even before coming to power) would treat political protest. This included the use of illegal and pre-emptive massive police brutality, the over-charging of protesters so that they face the threat of years in prison, AND the role of fascist thugs in assaulting protesters. All for exercising constitutionally protected political protest.

 

In the months before the RNC, the Secret Service, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security were in Cleveland knocking on doors and spying on political activists and others. Thousands of militarized cops (with a $50 million federal budget for “heightened security measures” and equipment for the RNC) from across the country swarmed Cleveland. All this to preemptively intimidate people from coming to protest and to suppress protesters who dared to come.

Not only were the RNC 16 attacked by this massive police force—fascist thugs physically assaulted them, and then tried to play “the victim.” During the flag burning, two fascists physically assaulted Joey Johnson. They publicly bragged about punching and kicking Joey Johnson in an interview with Alex Jones posted online later that day. (See “Who Is Alex Jones and Infowars.com.”) Not only were these thug provocateurs NOT charged for an assault on Johnson, but based on their claim that they were “burned” in putting out the flag—an act violating the constitutional right to protest by burning the flag—they became the “victims” for which the prosecutors charged Joey Johnson and one other protester with assault! These fascists admitted to assaulting Johnson and then bragged about filing charges, but the authorities went ahead and pressed charges against Johnson and another defendant! In the face of public support and media coverage, this bogus charge was dropped six months later.

In the last months—from Sacramento, to Berkeley, to Charlottesville—we’ve only seen these kinds of extralegal assaults grow, with fascists coming to intimidate protests in full battle gear, wielding bats, knives, and even using their cars as weapons. Often, these fascists get a free pass from the police to terrorize and brutalize righteous political protest.

Serious Stakes and Consequences

On November 29, 2016, Donald Trump tweeted a dangerous threat: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American Flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail.” During his campaign rallies, Trump openly longed for the days when protesters were “carried out on stretchers.” Since Trump’s inauguration, state laws have been passed or are pending to criminalize peaceful forms of political protests, including giving immunity to drivers who run over protesters who are in the streets or highways as long as it is “an accident.” The NRA has made videos calling their followers to attack those resisting and protesting against the Trump/Pence regime, including specifically targeting people who burn the American flag.

Here is a case of real freedom of expression, which is being suppressed BY THE STATE. Protesters facing prison sentences based on trumped-up charges after they were brutalized by the police and fascist thugs. Fascist provocateurs getting away with threats and outright violence, working hand in glove with the cops. Yet the news of this is being kept hidden while the media-wise people (some of whom want to both criticize Trump but at the same time keep that criticism and the whole struggle against Trump within very strict—and restrictive—bounds) direct our attention to the “threats” posed by those who are protesting against fascism and fascist attacks on the people. While we’re being told that people like Ann Coulter and such ilk, with backing and access to the fascist regime in power, should have an “all access” pass to vomit their filth all over people.

What happened on July 20, 2016 at the gates of the RNC with the burning of the American flag was an alarm being sounded against what has become a true nightmare for humanity. This bold (and completely legal) flag burning called out Trump’s campaign and now regime for what it is: a fascist regime which must be opposed. That day, before the eyes of the world, we saw a clashing of two futures for humanity. The RNC 16 said, “We had a right to [burn the U.S. flag] and it was the right thing to do!”

The upcoming felony trial, and continued prosecution, of the RNC 16 is a very serious attack on the right to dissent. This has great stakes in the context of the Trump/Pence regime moving to consolidate a fascist America. And the arrests and prosecution of protesters is aimed at silencing and intimidating all those who have been drawn into motion to stop this. We must not allow this to go down, their repressive moves to criminalize dissent have to be defeated by all who are horrified and outraged by the future the Trump/Pence regime is working to lock into place. In addition to the importance of winning this fight in the courts, it can give strength and courage to everyone who wants to see a better world.

At the gates of Trump’s coronation and in the face of a massive and brutal police assault and of fascist thugs, and before hundreds of international media, the RNC 16 stood up for the people of the world. These beautiful and courageous brothers and sisters must be defended and the powers that be must not be allowed to punish them for the so-called crime of telling the truth. They acted in the name of humanity and now all of us are being called on and challenged to do the same. Join in this fight: DROP THE CHARGES ON THE RNC 16!

DROP THE CHARGES ON ALL THE RNC 16!

What you can do:

• Demand that ALL charges be dropped NOW!

For the felony cases:

Michael O’Malley
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor
Phone: 216 443-7800
Fax: 216 698-2270

For the misdemeanor cases:

Kimberly Barnett-Mills
Acting Chief Assistant Prosecutor
City of Cleveland
Phone: 216 664-4850
Fax: 216 664-4399

• Pack the courtroom on Tues., September 19, 2017

The (IN)Justice Center
1200 Ontario Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

• Donate money and raise funds for legal costs & travel:

Go to www.crowdrise.com/revolution-club-at-the-conventions

• Invite Gregory “Joey” Johnson and other RNC 16 defendants to speak—

at your school, community group, or other gatherings about why he burned the flag, what the flag really represents, and the danger of forced patriotism.

• Make a statement on social media demanding “Drop the Charges on the RNC 16”!

• Go to www.revcom.us/static/meme/memes-to-post-and-tweet-en.html#rag (please copy to revclubmedia@gmail.com or Twitter: @joey4revolution)

• Contact the Committee to Free the RNC 16 at FreeRNC16@gmail.com

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