City of Cleveland Reaches $50,000 Settlement With Ohio Man Arrested During American Flag Burning Protest at 2016 RNC

The City of Cleveland has agreed to pay a $50,000 settlement to Steven Fridley, an Ohio man who was one of 18 arrested during protest activities at the 2016 RNC when Gregory "Joey" Johnson burned an American flag at the end of East Fourth Street while the group formed a safety circle around him. Johnson had barely lit the flag when riot police swooped in to arrest the protestors.

Fridley was arrested and then prosecuted, as were the others, on a series of misdemeanor counts including failure to disperse, aggravated disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Cleveland Municipal Court judge Charles L. Patton dismissed all those charges, and those against the others, in October 2017 citing the landmark 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Texas v Gregory Johnson that established flag burning as protected speech.

Fridley filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Cleveland nearly a year later, alleging violations of this First and Fourth Amendment rights, arguing that the arrests were pretextual and lacking all probable cause. Johnson also filed a federal lawsuit on similar grounds. Both are represented by the Chandra Law Firm.

Fridley reached a $50,000 settlement with the city in his case.

"The RNC was a really important moment and the public conversation at that point, at the protest, became unbalanced by police action," said Chandra Law attorney Patrick Kabat, who represented Fridley. "There was a contribution they had the right to make and they were prevented from doing so. It's one of the reasons the First Amendment considers violations to be irreparable, there's no unringing the bell. We're glad we can put this behind us but this isn't just about a few people. This is about a protected act, this is about Texas v Johnson."

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