CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland has settled a federal civil-rights lawsuit that alleged the city and multiple police officers violated a man’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest the American government.
Steven Fridley had joined in a constitutionally protected burning of an American flag outside the 2016 Republican National Convention, according to the Chandra Law Firm LLC.
On July 20, 2016, before then-candidate Donald Trump took the stage, Fridley and his fellow protesters allegedly formed a circle around Gregory Lee Johnson who had informed the city that he planned to repeat his flag burning protest in Cleveland.
Officers reportedly arrested Johnson, according to the complaint, and then backed Fridley and his fellow protesters up against a wall and arrested them in turn.
Fridley was jailed and charged with obstructing official business, aggravated disturbance of the peace, and disobeying a lawful order.
According to the law firm, the city prosecuted Fridley until October 20, 2017 when Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Charles L. Patton dismissed all charges, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Texas v. Johnson.
On October 20, 2018 Fridley filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleging that the city, police chief Calvin Williams and several officers “unlawfully prosecuted him for exercising his First Amendment rights, and manufactured false reports and evidence under a policy of pursuing ‘sham charges’ intended ‘to create plausible deniability’ and ‘conceal their politically motivated censorship of a lawful protest.'”
Wednesday, the law firm announced that Cleveland had settled Fridley’s claims for $50,000.
“It’s a blatant constitutional violation, it’s right there for the world to see,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Subodh Chandra. “They attacked those protesters, there was no justification. Of course there was gonna be a fire because they were burning the flag, but there was no threat to anyone.”
The City of Cleveland released the following statement to FOX 8:
“This was an insurance settlement that was paid by the insurance that was purchased for the RNC. The City of Cleveland denies any liability and disputes the plaintiff’s version of the facts.”
“I am very concerned that if we have another event like this or other peaceful protests that Cleveland police officers will again feel free to run amok and that there will be no accountability,” Chandra told FOX 8.
Meanwhile, Johnson filed a suit against Cleveland for the same incident which is still pending.