RNC flag burner awarded $50,000 over clashes with police

Screen capture … Burning flag in the middle of a tight, churning crowd outside the 2016 RNC in Cleveland … Credit: Fox News

A flag-burning protester arrested in Cleveland during the 2016 Republican National Convention will be paid $50,000 by the city to settle his federal civil rights lawsuit, according to his attorney.

The protester, Richard Newberger, is the beneficiary of the third settlement agreed to by the city of Cleveland arising out of the flag-burning incident. The stunt dangerously took place in the midst of a churning crowd in the streets outside Quicken Loans Arena on July 20, 2016. The city’s payouts thus far total $325,000.

Several videos of the fracas are available online and within our own BPR article posted the following day. The deliberately provocative and hazardous attempt to burn a U.S. flag involved several people who were reportedly members of a communist group. They all wore black t-shirts saying, “Revolution–Nothing Less!”

Police moved into the tightly packed, chaotic crowd after the flag was ignited and was being waved around. Newberger and others were sprayed with fire retardant, as police were heard to yell, “You’re on fire, stupid!”

Newburger, a Chicago resident, and Gregory Lee Johnson, from San Francisco, were arrested and charged with misdemeanors, but those charges were subsequently dropped.

Johnson is well-known for a flag burning at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas that ultimately resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated state flag-burning laws.

Newburger has made news for his involvement in various protests, to include an incident in 2014 in Chicago during a Ferguson demonstration for which he was charged with aggravated battery to a police officer.

Cleveland previously agreed to settlements to Johnson for $225,000 and protester Stephen Fridley $50,000.

“The City of Cleveland has agreed to settle yet a third civil-rights lawsuit over its, and its officers’, First Amendment free-speech violations, false arrests, and malicious prosecution of peaceful protestors at the 2016 Republican National Convention,” wrote Newburger’s attorney, Subodh Chandra, in a Friday statement.

“The latest suit, filed in July 2019 by Chandra Law on behalf of Richard Newburger, complained that the City, police chief Calvin Williams, and officer Matthew France extinguished Newburger’s symbolic speech of protesting the rising fascism represented by Donald Trump by burning the American flag,” the statement continued.

The attorney claimed: “Mr. Newburger stood peacefully next to Mr. Johnson as Mr. Johnson prepared to light the flag. Fellow protesters created a safety circle around Mr. Newburger and Mr. Johnson to maintain a safe protest.

“Immediately after the flag was lit, Cleveland police officers unjustifiably started to extinguish the flag—pre-emptively censoring Mr. Newburger’s speech before any supposed safety concern reasonably existed.

“Mr. Newburger never resisted the police,” Chandra’s statement claimed. “In the Cleveland police officers’ unconstitutional frenzy, the police assaulted Mr. Newburger by spraying him directly in the face with a chemical extinguisher.”

In October of 2017, the Cleveland Municipal Court dismissed all charges. The ruling referred to Texas v. Johnson, involving the very same Johnson, as the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case that had established that the act of burning the American flag is protected free speech.

The day after, Fox News ran an excellent segment showing Pete Hegseth right in the midst of the chaos…

Video by Fox News



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