“We did nothing wrong—we have right on our side”
RNC Flag Burners Go On the Offensive

November 5, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Burning the U.S. flag outside the Republican convention
Joey Johnson at Republican National Convention. Before setting the flag on fire, Joey chanted, "1, 2, 3, 4—Slavery, Genocide, and War! 5, 6, 7, 8—America Was NEVER Great!" Photo: revcom.us

On July 20, Donald Trump was being nominated by the Republicans with a program of fascist law and order, misogyny, and unbridled vitriolic racist attacks against Blacks, Chicanos, other Latinos, Muslims, and immigrants. Outside the convention, Joey Johnson lit the American flag on fire as the Revolution Club chanted “1, 2, 3, 4—Slavery, Genocide, and War! 5, 6, 7, 8—America Was NEVER Great!” As previously written (“Joey Johnson and the RNC 16 Put the System on Trial in Cleveland”), the revcoms “had a right to do what we did at the RNC... and it was right.” Even before the flag was lit, a mob of police and fascist Infowars/Trump operatives assaulted the protective perimeter of Revolution Club members. The police violently arrested Joey Johnson and at least 16 other people. The victims of this assault, the RNC 16, face multiple misdemeanors and felonies. There are significant new developments in the battle to free them.

Attorneys for the RNC 16 have filed several important legal motions. One is to throw out the charges. These charges are utterly illegal and unconstitutional, in addition to being outrageously unjust. The fact is that the right to burn the flag in protest was won by Gregory “Joey” Johnson himself in the historic 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, which determined that flagburning is protected by the First Amendment.

People's Tribunal Finds the System Guilty
Video of the People's Tribunal, originally held at the Cleveland Courthouse, September 29, 2016

Also, the defendants argued that the question of whether to dismiss the charges should be heard and ruled on by a single judge, rather than several different judges. In addition, the defendants are fighting to force authorities to turn over evidence that will reveal how a whole slew of government agencies and fascists collaborated and conspired to attack them when they exercised what is supposed to be a constitutionally protected form of free speech.

Motions in the Legal Arena

On November 3, the RNC defendants appeared in court for a hearing to determine if their motion to dismiss the charges against 14 misdemeanor defendants would be argued in front of one judge or would be put before the eight different judges to whom the different defendants are presently assigned. This may seem like a simple procedural matter, but it gets to the heart of what the case of the RNC 16 is actually about. All the charges against the RNC 16 stem from one pre-planned illegal assault involving federal, state, and city police agencies on those who dared to challenge everything that was concentrated in the Republican National Convention (RNC) and as such, the defendants were in court with their attorneys to argue that their motions to dismiss should be argued and decided together before one judge.

Just prior to this hearing, defense attorneys received the prosecution’s response to defendants’ demands for all the documents that could reveal how “The system, with its Secret Service, FBI, and Cleveland police and the alt-right Infowars operatives were all collaborating together to spy on and attack the Revolution Club even though the system’s own court said flagburning is protected political speech. Now the powers-that-be want to prosecute the RNC 16.” [from the RNC16 brochure]. Important revelations were made in the prosecution’s responses.

At the Courthouse: Taking the Case to the People

It was clear from the moment that the RNC 16 showed up at the INjustice Center that this was going to be a different day from the routine that daily grinds people through those halls.

The RNC 16 assembled outside all wearing BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts, and began chanting in unison: “1, 2, 3, 4—Slavery Genocide and War! 5, 6, 7, 8—America Was Never Great!”; “It’s Time, to Get Organized, For an Actual Revolution” “Who are We? The Revolution Club. Who’s Our Leader? Bob Avakian”—which is what they had chanted with fire and determination at the RNC, even as they were being assaulted and arrested on July 20.

People coming to court watched with curiosity as the RNC 16 chanted defiantly. In one incident that reveals a bit of the scene at the courthouse, a young Black man with an American flag pin on his jacket was about to walk into the building when Joey Johnson handed him a flyer about the RNC 16 demanding that the charges be dropped. “Get into this flyer, man. They are putting us on trial for burning the flag,” JJ said. The young man said, “I’m alright.” Johnson replied, “You’re alright, but the world is completely fucked up.” After hearing this, the man immediately took off the pin and threw it down on the ground.

The revcoms moved together, marching into the courthouse in formation, heads held high and determined. One of the RNC 16 defendants later reflected, “We knew that we did nothing wrong, we had right on our side and we are going to fight this.” The whole courtroom was filled to capacity with the RNC 16 defendants, their lawyers, and supporters. All of this served notice that these people are going to fight these charges, and are going on the offensive to put the system on trial.

The hearing over who would hear arguments to dismiss the cases was short, but it established that the arguments for dismissing these charges are going to be heard by a single judge, giving the defendants better conditions to bring to bear all the elements and facts of what actually happened—the full picture as opposed to the baseless criminal charges, making the case that it is the police and government who acted illegally—and why these charges must be dismissed immediately.

Prosecution tries to keep hidden the conspiracy against the RNC16

The prosecution is refusing to turn over key documents demanded by the defendants. The defendants have a legal right to demand this material. It is part of bringing to the light of day all the different government agencies involved in the pre-planned assault on the revcoms; the defendants’ attorneys subpoenaed Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams to turn over the documents.


Here are some of the 35 categories of documents the attorneys are demanding:

  • “policies, procedures, protocols, plans, briefing information, directives, etc., regarding the conduct of members of the Cleveland Division of Police and/or any other law enforcement officers cooperating with and/or acting as the agent of the Cleveland Division of Police with respect to any and all protest activities occurring during the 2016 Republican National Convention, including, but not limited to, documents and/or other materials supplied to the Cleveland Police Department by other police or government agencies such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, and/or the Secret Service.”
  • “...Cleveland police plans, tactics, strategy, etc., to be utilized by members of the Cleveland Division of Police and/or any other law enforcement officers cooperating with and/or acting as the agent of the Cleveland Division of Police on July 19 and 20, 2016, or any other time, in relation to expected protest activities at the 2016 Republican National Convention, including, but not limited to, information, intelligence or other material supplied to the Cleveland Division of Police by other governmental agencies such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, and/or the Secret Service; and
  • “Copies of all documents and/or communications of any kind that refer in any manner to the activities and/or conduct of Alex Jones on July 19, 2016 in connection with the 2016 Republican National Convention.”

(From Defendant’s Criminal Subpoena to Cleveland Police Chief Paul Williams to produce documents)

So what is the prosecutor’s response to these demands? They filed a motion to quash the production of these documents to stop these documents from being turned over. First, they argued that “Defendants cannot request anything and everything, hoping to find something to use against the City of Cleveland ... this is further evidence Defendants are on a fishing expedition to obtain records Defendants are not privy to see.” (our emphasis). They further argued that such documents would not be turned over because of a Supreme Court of Ohio Criminal Rule (aptly named) which states that “Disclosure will compromise an ongoing criminal investigation or a confidential law enforcement technique or investigation regardless of whether that investigation involves a pending case or the defendant.” In citing this rule, they argue, “In the case at hand ... many of documents ... would fall under the non-disclosure rule as they would disclose confidential law enforcement techniques or investigations. Any requests for plans, strategies, tactics, methods of intelligence gatherings or briefings would fall under the non-disclosure law.” (From City of Cleveland’s Motion to Quash Chief Calvin Williams’ Subpoena Duces Tecum filed October 25, 2016)

So we asked the Pig Latin Translator who appeared at the People’s Tribunal to translate this for our readers:

“Here’s what really happened: Yes it is true, Homeland Security and the Secret Service were in charge of the overall security for the RNC. Yes, this did include FBI agents, along with local police, paying ‘home visits’ to dozens of community organizers and activists, as well as people associated with supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party. They questioned people about their plans for the convention, and the plans of other groups and individuals, asking some for their political and social affiliations—with the purpose of harassing and intimidating people from coming to protest at the RNC. In fact, deputy police chief, Ed Tomba, said, ‘The Cleveland police have a very robust pre-convention intelligence team. We have a real, real good idea of who we think is coming here and what their objectives are. And if we can deter those objectives, that’s what we’re going to do.'

The People's Tribunal was re-enacted at the Cleveland Courthouse on November 3.

Noche Diaz questions a man dressed as a pig named "Chief Pig Calvin William" in front of the Justice Center.
Noche Diaz questions a man dressed as a pig named "Chief Pig Calvin William" in front of the Justice Center. (Photo: @chandaneely/Twitter)

Revcoms dressed as pigs stand on the steps of the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland.
Revcoms dressed as pigs stand on the steps of the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland. (Photo: @chandaneely/Twitter)

“But what the prosecutor is saying here is that we are not going to disclose how such information was used and how this was carried out. This is exactly what the Criminal Rule is saying, these defendants are being criminally charged for carrying out constitutionally protected political activity including flag burning, so of course we are not going to turn over any documents that expose the law enforcement techniques used to do that, including the role of the pro-Trump alt-right Infowars Alex Jones operatives, even though they admitted on tape they planned and did assault Joey Johnson to try to stop him from burning that flag. All this would expose that the criminal charges against these defendants are based on a pack of lies, as well as other dirty, unconstitutional, repressive shit we're carrying out.” (For more, see RNC 16’s People’s Tribunal video and transcript.)

Lastly, it should be noted the prosecutor did not deny that such documents exist.

People’s Tribunal After the Hearing

After the hearing ended the Revcoms went to the steps of the courthouse to re-enact the People’s Tribunal. During the tribunal, cars stopped and recorded segments of it. Some people joined the RNC 16 in the Jury Booth and helped deliver the verdict—yelling guilty at each criminal count the pigs were convicted of and chanting, “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

The pig pen jail with its collection of pigs inside being put on trial—Pig Secret Service, Pig FBI Chief, Pig Prosecutor McGinty, Pig Chief Williams, Pig Alex Jones—attracted a lot of attention. People watching shook their heads in disgust when hearing about the crimes of the system and learning that all the statements in the tribunal were actually made by each pig and are available in the public record.

The revcoms who were the people’s prosecutors were fired up and full of disdain for the system and its operatives; in their biting and sharp presentation of evidence against these pigs, they showed what was going on before, during, and after the illegal arrests and how the system directly targeted the revolutionaries and champions of the seven billion people of Earth while the Nazi rally was taking place inside the RNC Convention hall.

The RNC 16 ended their evening by watching two films: Chicago 10, a documentary on the trial of the Chicago 8 arising out of the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe.”


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