It is ironic that in America, it is a police officer who protects the protester who advocates his death and rushes them to safety when a sniper starts firing.

And in the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, “It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt.”

So it is that the flag that represents America can be burned in public under the protection of the First Amendment its Constitution, the guarantee of the right of freedom of expression trumping even the sacred symbol of that right.

But while it is legal to burn the flag in protest, it is not always wise and not often particularly persuasive in winning converts.

It is also illegal in most places to start a fire in a public place or to set a flag on fire to incite a riot.

A member of the Revolutionary Communist Party protesting at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland had that right and the freedom to exercise it, and was protected by police officers who not doused the flames, but had to rescue the inept flag-burner who had also set himself on fire while a few supporters chanted, “Burn that rag! Burn that rag!”

“You’re on fire! You’re on fire, stupid!” one Cleveland officer shouted, and another tweeted afterwards, Protestor lit flag on fire, then lit himself on fire, catching others on fire. Flames extinguished by firefighters. No serious injuries.”

Officers extinguished the fire with spray, causing spectators and some members of the media to report that the police were “using tear gas” or pepper spray.

Seventeen arrests were made, including Gregory “Joey” Johnson, who set fire to a flag at the 1984 Republican Convention triggering the case that led to the 1989 Supreme Court case recognizing flag-burning as a legitimate form of expression.

That freedom was seen on display as religious groups, Second Amendment advocates, members of the LGBT community, immigration activists and Trump supporters mingled – enjoying their First Amendment right to express themselves and offend each other.

And, as long as there was no pushing or shoving – and nothing was set on fire, the police protected their right to be heard.

That’s the way we do things here.



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