Sparks will fly in Washington as activists torch an American flag to protest President Trump’s July Fourth “Salute to America,” which Trump claims will be one of the largest events in city history.
Longtime flag-burning activist Gregory “Joey” Johnson of the Revolutionary Communist Party told the Washington Examiner, “I’m going to be there in D.C.,” and “that rag of empire and oppression is going to burn.”
Johnson is well known for winning a 1989 Supreme Court case that invalidated state laws against flag burning. He declined to share the time and location of next week’s protest or say how many other activists will participate.
Trump will appear at the Lincoln Memorial at 6:30 p.m., ahead of fireworks at dusk. Last week, Trump endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would recriminalize flag burning, overriding the Supreme Court. Trump tweeted the amendment was a “no brainer!”
There’s no reason to doubt Johnson’s seriousness. He and about a dozen fellow members of the Revolutionary Communist Party staged high-profile flag burnings in 2016 at the Republican and Democratic conventions. This month, he won a $225,000 settlement from Cleveland, Ohio, over his arrest protesting Trump’s nomination.
The group that aided Johnson at the 2016 conventions announced the burnings in advance. At both protests, outraged veterans attempted to stop him, saying they would not tolerate disrespect to the flag. The communist group chanted “burn that rag!”
Johnson told the Washington Examiner he considers himself an internationalist and supports a vision for global communism.
Trump wants to turn the traditionally nonpartisan Washington celebrations “into a fascist extravaganza of ‘make America white again,’ xenophobia, jingoism, and American chauvinism. And this is all dangerous to humanity,” Johnson said.
“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. “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.”
Johnson said he’s upset about many recent Trump policies. He’s angered by escalating tensions with Iran and detention of people who cross the border illegally.
The activist said the flag is “flying over the pens of mass incarceration, filled with 2 million people” and over the “thousands of refugees in dog pens” along the Mexican border.
“And yeah, it’s the flag of this shameless fascist jackal Trump,” he said.
Johnson traces his political radicalism to his time as an Army brat in the late ’60s in West Germany, where at age 12 he said he met anti-Vietnam War soldiers while selling copies of the Stars and Stripes newspaper in mess halls.
“Vets are not all of one mind,” he said.
Though socialism is ascendant among Democrats, Johnson says he’s not encouraged by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congresswoman.
“Bernie contributes to and backs up American chauvinism,” Johnson said. “Bernie or AOC, when you are talking about the [Democratic Socialists of America], you are talking about sharing the spoils of imperialism.”