Texas v Johnson

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Texas v. Gregory Lee Johnson was a Supreme Court case that overthrew bans on damaging the American flag in 48 of the 50 states. Attorneys David D. Cole and William Kunstler represented Johnson. Johnson participated in a political demonstration during the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. The demonstrators were protesting the rules of the Reagan Administration and of certain companies in Dallas. They marched through the streets, shouted chants, and held signs outside the workplaces of certain companies. At one place, demonstrators handed Johnson an American flag that was taken from a flagpole outside one of their targeted buildings. When the demonstrators reached Dallas City Hall, Johnson poured kerosene on an American flag and set it on fire. During the burning of the flag, demonstrators shouted such phrases as, "America, the red, white, and blue, we spit on you, you stand for plunder, you will go under," No one was hurt, but some bystanders said they were extremely offended. Johnson was charged with violating the Texas law that bans vandalizing valued objects. He was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison. He appealed to the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas, but he lost this appeal. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals then saw his case. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was the highest court in Texas that would see criminal appeals. The court reversed his conviction, saying that the State could not punish Johnson for burning the flag because the First Amendment protects Johnson’s actions. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, in favor of Johnson. William J. Brennan, Jr. and Justices Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy voted for the majority. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote a dissent, meaning he disagreed with the majority. Justices Byron White, John Paul Stevens, and Sandra Day O’Connor

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