The American Flag Ablaze By Gregory Lee Johnson Essay

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Some citizens write stern letters to their congressmen, some post signs in their front yard, others gather signatures on a petition to voice their opinions. However, Gregory Lee Johnson decided to set the American flag ablaze to allow his opinion to be heard. In 1984, a political protest march was occurring through the streets of Dallas, Texas consisting of a diverse group of civilians who were against the policies of the current Reagan Administration. Johnson, in the middle of the crowd, was handed an American Flag and some kerosene by an unknown protestor outside the Dallas City Hall; Johnson decided to throw the American flag onto the ground, pour the kerosene on it and set it on fire. Many protesters around Johnson began to chant, “America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you!” (Greenhouse). Johnson was then arrested and charged with, “desecration of a venerated object.” (Volokh), he was found guilty and faced a sentence of a one-year term in prison and a $2,000 fine. Johnson appealed his case to the Fifth District of Texas Court of Criminal Appeals where the court found Johnson to be innocent on account of his expressive conduct being protected by the First Amendment. Some would say Johnson’s actions were un-American, but to Johnson, what is more American than exercising the very rights the country has given him.
In Henry David Thoreau’s famous essay, “Civil Disobedience” he boldly talks about Americans who constantly criticize and gripe about the decisions being…

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