'Burn That Rag!' Activists To Desecrate American Flag During Trump July 4th Rally


If you’re not the kind of person who wants to attend the July Fourth “Salute to America” in Washington, D.C. — which will include a speech by President Trump and a fireworks display that’s billed as the largest in the history of the capital — Gregory “Joey” Johnson has an alternative event for you.

Those of you who know Johnson likely know him through the Supreme Court case that bears his name, Texas v. Johnson. In that 1989 decision, the arrest and conviction of the Revolutionary Communist Party member for burning the flag at the 1984 Republican National Convention was overturned — as were all laws protecting the flag from desecration — for being contrary to the First Amendment.

Johnson has continued his flag-burning act, including at the 2016 Republican and Democratic National conventions, chanting “burn that rag” along with his comrades in the party. He’s also flush with cash, thanks to a settlement with the city of Cleveland over his arrest for misdemeanor assault at the RNC that netted him almost a quarter of a million dollars.

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And apparently he’s not willing to wait for the next set of national conventions next year to incinerate him some Old Glories.

According to the Washington Examiner, Johnson plans a bit of counter-programming to the “Salute to America” in the form of a flag-burning: “I’m going to be there in D.C.” along with other activists, he told the publication, and “that rag of empire and oppression is going to burn.”

If this sounds more like Rage Against the Machine lyrics than a coherent policy position, well, don’t worry, there was more of that to come.

“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,” Johnson said.

Do you think burning the American flag should be constitutionally banned?

“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.”

Sounds like just the thing I want to watch on July Fourth.

Johnson also told the Examiner that the American flag was “flying over the pens of mass incarceration, filled with 2 million people” as well as “thousands of refugees in dog pens,” referring to illegal immigrants currently being detained by the government.

“And yeah, it’s the flag of this shameless fascist jackal Trump,” he said. Oh, yeah.

Of course, this is kind of odd stuff if you want to attract an audience to rival a patriotic display on the most patriotic of days — even if, like Johnson, you believe that Trump is turning July Fourth “into a fascist extravaganza of ‘make America white again,’ xenophobia, jingoism and American chauvinism” and that “this is all dangerous to humanity.”

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Sadly, the number of people who might believe this sort of rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent years, particularly given the recent acceptance that socialism has acquired in the liberal mainstream.

Well, if you’re one of those newfangled “Democratic socialists,” you may not want to attend, inasmuch as Johnson doesn’t seem to want you there.

“Bernie [Sanders] contributes to and backs up American chauvinism,” Johnson said of the Democrat presidential candidate and patient zero in the current socialist craze. “Bernie or AOC, when you are talking about the [Democratic Socialists of America], you are talking about sharing the spoils of imperialism.”

There are no specific details about this minor-league fireworks demonstration, but it’s rather sad to see the American flag being used in such a mindless fashion. Then again, that’s what Johnson’s whole public life has been based on: desecrating Old Glory because outrage is the only thing that Johnson can inspire.

It’s clear from this interview that his inchoate political views are those of a mental teenager. This is someone who engaged in a confrontation with veteran counter-protesters during the Republican National Convention three years ago. In fact, that’s where the “Burn that rag” chant came from.

One can hope that he doesn’t draw much of an audience, either in sympathy with him or protesting against him. Sadly, given the political climate in 2019 and the fact we hear this kind of rhetoric far too often, one fears that this is going to draw more attention than it ever would have in the recent past.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture