Cleveland police chief testifies in court over RNC flag burning incident

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CLEVELAND- It was one protest that caught the most attention during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

A flag burning incident that resulted in 16 arrests.

Now 6 months later, 14 people were back in court Thursday in Cleveland facing various charges after Cleveland police said the actions by protesters endangered other people.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams testified Thursday. He was among the officers who tried to break up the protest back in July after the flag was burned.

Williams said all the officers were trying to do was work to get things back under control. "There was an out of control crowd and officers were being assaulted and they were calling for assistance," Chief Williams said.

Cleveland Police Lieutenant Timony Gaertner, the man who used a fire extinguisher to put out the burning flag, told the court Thursday that after the flag was lit it was clear to him people were in danger.

"I witnessed two people have their clothes caught fire and  the way it was being waved around it was a threat to other people too," Lieutenant Gaertner said.

Attorneys for the protesters argue the police reaction was more about the flag being burned than the threat to public safety.

They showed their own video of the flag being burned in court and said it showed that things were safe until police pushed the crowd closer.

Joey Johnson, who was the man holding the flag in the video, claims police action was an attempt to stop them from their constitutional protected right to burn the flag and nothing more.

Johnson said, "They didn't like it. We had a right to do what we did-- the right thing; they were moving to suppress it and keep it from happening to begin with. We formed up a safety circle; we had 20 people with their arms interlocked. There was plenty of room to burn it and do it in a way when no one in the immediate area would be harmed by it."

Judge Charles Patton could rule on the case as early as Friday.

**More on the Republican National Convention here.**

Google Map for coordinates 41.499320 by -81.694361.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.