Two protesters were arrested near the White House for burning the American flag Thursday as attendees of President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July “Salute to America” were waiting for the event to start.
One protester was arrested for felony assault on a police officer and malicious burning, and the other for obstructing a police investigation and resisting arrest, Secret Service said in a statement.
One individual was transported to a local hospital for minor injuries and the other was transported to the Metropolitan Police Department for processing. Two Secret Service agents also received minor injuries while attempting to make arrests and were transported to a local hospital for treatment.
The Secret Service declined to name either person involved, however, the Revolutionary Communist Party said one of the men arrested was Gregory "Joey" Johnson, according to a press release.
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Johnson was also arrested more than 30 years ago for burning a flag during a protest in Texas and convicted for violating a state law prohibiting flag desecration. He successfully appealed the conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that flag burning is considered freedom of speech and legally protected by the First Amendment.
Johnson’s group reportedly had a permit for today's protest provided they took precautions like a burn pit and proper extinguishing equipment, but the flag was burned on Pennsylvania Avenue, which wasn't the permitted location, NBC Washington reported.
The New York Times reported that a scuffle broke out between at least a dozen people around 5 p.m. as protesters lit two American flags on fire.
At one point, Trump supporters crowded the area where the flag-burning protesters were, and a fight broke out, the Times reported.
Secret Service agents broke up the fighting as squad cars arrived.
The Revolutionary Communist Party said the two flags successfully burned under the slogan “Imagine A World Without America.”
In a press release, the group said the flag-burning was in protest of Trump’s policies on migrant detention facilities and climate change, as well as the July Fourth events in Washington.
Johnson, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, described his plans to burn the flag to the Washington Post.
“When I see that flag burn, I’m not only thinking of the children who are starved and bombed by the U.S. in Yemen, or the children who are torn from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Johnson told the Washington Post. “This is the workings of a system that the U.S. dominates . . . built on the plunder of literally billions of people around the world.”
The demonstration near the White House is part of the organization’s “National Get Organized For An Actual Revolution Tour,” during which the organizers declared the American flag, “so soaked in the blood of ‘barbarity and hypocrisy’ will burn in symbolic places around this country,” according to a press release.