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Flag burning in front of White House leads to scuffle amid 4th of July celebrations

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Revolutionary Communist Party activists initiated a flag burning in front of White House. Right wing extremists took issue and a fight broke out.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The burning of a flag in front of the White House led to a scuffle between protesters and President Donald Trump supporters during Independence Day celebrations in the nation’s capital.

Gregory Lee Johnson, who had been the lead plaintiff in the 1984 Supreme Court protecting flag-burning as a First Amendment expression of speech, had burned a flag as part of a demonstration.

Johnson was one of two people arrested after a confrontation took place. 

Some members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, an American communist party, had formed a cordon of about a dozen people around Johnson as he ignited the flag, chanting “America was never great.” 

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A protest group calling themselves the Revolutionary Communist Party burnt an American flag in front of the White House on Independence Day.
Jason Lalljee, USA TODAY

Trump supporters, some wearing hats emblazoned with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, charged the circle, causing the flag burners to topple over. With some Revolutionary Communist group members on the ground, a man wearing a red, sleeveless “Make America Great Again” shirt picked up the flag and attempted to stamp out the fire. 

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Some of the counter-protesters seen in the tussle were wearing hats and shirts that identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys, a far-right organization whose members describe themselves as “western chauvinists.” 

“I am going to D.C. on the Fourth of July and I’m going to burn the flag in protest (of his) whole fascist agenda,” Johnson had told USA TODAY earlier this week.

Another unidentified protester then attempted to ignite a second flag, as protesters chanted “burn, baby, burn!” 

Law enforcement officers on the scene extinguished the flames. 

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  • Members of the U.S. Secret Service try to put the fire out during an attempted flag burning on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House on Independence Day July 4th, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is holding a Salute to America celebration on the National Mall on Independence Day this year with musical performances, a military flyover, and fireworks.1 of 8
  • Police extinguish a flag that was lit on fire by protesters in front of the White House on July 4, 2019 ahead of Trump's speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.2 of 8
  • Protesters are arrested after lighting an American flag on fire in front of the White House on July 4, 2019.3 of 8
  • A protester is arrested after lighting an American flag on fire in front of the White House.4 of 8
  • An American flag was lit, and then extinguished and sits behind a police bicycle tire in front of the White House on July 4, 2019.5 of 8
  • Violence broke out in front of the White House on July 4, 2019 between protesters and counter-protesters, leading to arrests ahead of President Donald Trump's speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.6 of 8
  • Police try to calm things after violence broke out in front of the White House.7 of 8
  • An U.S. flag is left on Pennsylvania Avenue after an attempted flag burning in front of the White House on Independence Day July 4th, 2019 in Washington, DC. 8 of 8

“Getting arrested was not a part of the plan,” said Noche Diaz, one of the protesters, though he himself was not arrested. 

Police then moved everyone out of Lafayette Park in front of the White House, and the Proud Boys chanted “Trump 2020” while exiting.

Julia McMurray, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, confirmed that one person was arrested for felony assault on a police officer and malicious burning, and another person was arrested for obstructing a police investigation and resisting arrest. 

One protester, as well as two Secret Service officers, were transported to a local hospital to treat minor injuries. The other individual was brought to the 2nd District Metropolitan Police Department for processing.

Contributing: Max Cohen, Olivia Sanchez 

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