To be clear, burning the American flag is perfectly legal. The Supreme Court has ruled in two cases that igniting Old Glory is a form of speech and thus can't be abridged by the government, no matter how much Congress might like to.
Outstanding traffic tickets, on the other hand, remain a perfectly valid reason to haul someone off to jail.
Dallas police would like to make absolutely clear that, even though George Johnson was in the middle of burning a flag at downtown's Belo Garden when they arrived, his arrest had nothing to do with stifling free speech.
Johnson "was not charged for defamation of the flag," the arresting officers make sure to note in their incident report. "[He] was informed by the arresting officer that he was not being charged for burning the flag."
Rather, he was had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to pay three tickets totaling $1,211.75.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
That explanation is sure to go over well with Johnson, who told police he was burning the flag to protest the IRS for violating his civil rights. How exactly the agency did this isn't made clear, though officers observed that he at least had the foresight to bring a fire extinguisher. He'll be able to pick it up from the police department's property room whenever he gets out of jail.