Joey Johnson of U.S. Supreme Court Decision Texas v. Johnson Responds to:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Comments That Colin Kaepernick and Flag Burners are "Dumb, Disrespectful and Arrogant"

October 14, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors' note: After Joey Johnson issued this statement, Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out with a statement saying, "Barely aware of the incident [the refusal of Colin Kaepernick and others to stand for the national anthem] or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh. I should have declined to respond." Joey Johnson's statement continues to be very relevant.

Joey Johnson Flag Burning Cleveland RNC

Joey Johnson at the RNC: "We're standing here with the people of the world."


We demand:

Drop the charges on Gregory "Joey" Johnson and the RNC16 now!

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Statement by Gregory “Joey” Johnson, defendant in 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson that upheld burning the American flag in protest as protected speech… AND current defendant along with 15 others (the RNC16) for burning the American flag on July 20, 2016 outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as Donald Trump was being nominated for president. 

When Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg was asked by Katie Couric how she feels about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other athletes refusing to stand for the national anthem, Ginsburg said she thinks it is “dumb, disrespectful, stupid and arrogant” and said she would have the same answer if she was asked about flag burning.

Colin Kaepernick has said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." Kaepernick courageously set off a new wave of protests against the ongoing horror of the murders by police of thousands of people, overwhelmingly Black and other people of color, captured on video after video, yet with the police rarely even being charged, let alone sent to prison.

All the people who refused to stand up for the national anthem were absolutely right to do so. And I think a lot more disrespect for the national anthem and the flag is needed.

I was the defendant in the U.S. Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson (1989). I was arrested for burning the flag outside the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas as Ronald Reagan was being nominated for a second term. I was tried, convicted, and sentenced to a year in jail.  I fought for five years, until my victory when the Supreme Court ruled that flag burning is protected political speech.

Today in the U.S., it’s the same flag and even worse nationalistic chauvinism. First, the Republicans and Donald “Mr. Fascism” Trump, fangs bared, swearing only he can make America great again by hunting immigrants, cheering killer cops, bashing women, carrying out pogroms against Muslims, and ramping up American military firepower. Then there’s the “reasonable” and experienced imperialist war criminal, Hillary Clinton, insisting that “America is already great!”—while the system’s prisons, drone strikes, and world-wide exploitation crush the lives of millions and millions.  

“1,2,3,4, Slavery, genocide and war! 5,6,7,8, America was NEVER great!” is what I and other Revolution Club members chanted in a protest outside the Republican National Convention this summer. Then I stood inside a circle of Revolution Club members and stated, “America Number 1? America first? It always has been first: at genocide... at slavery... at exploitation... of destruction of the environment... of torture... of coup d’états... of invasions. We’re standing here with the people of the world today.” Then I burned the flag, that symbol of empire and oppression, as Trump was being nominated inside the convention. 

For this, 16 of us were assaulted by police and right-wing operatives of Trump, illegally arrested, and now face serious criminal charges.  We are being prosecuted even though the Texas v. Johnson decision determined that burning the flag in protest is “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. This criminal case is outrageous; it must be fought, and it reveals that the essence of what exists in America is not democracy but a dictatorship of a capitalist class and its state, willing to disregard its own laws and rights when it suffers political exposure.

Although Ginsburg says she doesn’t think anyone should be jailed for refusing to stand for the national anthem or for burning the flag, she spoke as if this is just a matter of her personal opinion—without pointing out that this matter has already been decided by the Supreme Court.  So her statement denouncing Colin Kaepernick—and flag burning—contributes to the system’s efforts to criminalize these important forms of dissent and enforce patriotism.

Arrogance? In reality, it’s Ginsburg who’s full of imperial arrogance, as she denies and tries to cover over the real crimes of the system people are outraged against.




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