A group of Revolutionary Communist Party supporters, led by activist Gregory Lee Johnson, burned an American flag outside the White House during the Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, which resulted in the arrest of at least three protesters.
Ahead of President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” event, the group clashed with Trump supporters, not very far from the crowd that came together on the National Mall to listen to the president’s address and see the fireworks.
The protesters formed a cordon by linking their arms around Johnson, who ignited the flag, amid chanting “America was never great” and “Burn, baby, burn.”
The demonstration was intervened by Trump supporters, causing some of the flag burners to fall onto the ground and trying to put out the fire, which was eventually extinguished by the Secret Service.
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) July 4, 2019
Among the counter-protesters were reportedly members of the Proud Boys, a far-right organization designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Johnson, who was one of those arrested, had already told the media about his group’s July 4 plans last week. “I’m going to be there in D.C. and that rag of empire and oppression is going to burn,” he had told the Washington Examiner.
“I’ll be in town to make it happen and to help expose Trump’s fascist agenda with the message that America was never great. America was built on slavery, genocide, and war. Instead of trying to go back to some dreamland America that never existed, we need to go forward to a world without America and everything it stands for,” he had added.
WHITE HOUSE — This is the flag burning earlier this evening…
Photo just released by Joey Johnson.
— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) July 4, 2019
As a longtime flag-burning protester, Johnson is known for winning a Supreme Court case in the 1980s against state laws related to flag burning. The ruling said the act of burning a flag consisted freedom of expression and was protected under the First Amendment. The court’s decision invalidated prohibitions on desecrating the American flag enforced in 48 of the 50 states.
Johnson also won a settlement of $225,000 from Cleveland, Ohio, this year, over his arrest related to flag-burning at a Republican Party event in 2016.
President Trump recently endorsed a proposal for an amendment to the Constitution that would make the action a crime again. He tweeted about the proposal two weeks ago, calling it a “no brainer.”
All in for Senator Steve Daines as he proposes an Amendment for a strong BAN on burning our American Flag. A no brainer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2019