This cover note is intended to give the context to the items that follow. I invite your feedback and that of the readers of your page, should you chose to include some or all of this material.
I was active in 1988-1990 as a legal worker, organizer, and lobbyist with the organization formed as the Emergency Committee on the Supreme Court Flag-Burning Case, later re-named the Emergency Committee to Stop the Flag Amendment and Laws.
I spent most of a year, at my own expense, as a full-time volunteer for the Emergency Committee, including attending the arguments and working with the defendants in both Supreme Court flag cases, speaking on behalf of the Emergency Committee, and representing the Emergency Committee on Capital Hill during consideration of of the Flag Protection Amendment in 1990.
I missed the House vote 21 June 1990, in which the Amendment fell short of the required 2/3, because I was sitting in on the Senate hearings on the Amendment which were held the same day. The Emergency Committee was denied permission to testify, and several of us stood along the back of the hearing room -- which was standing-room-only anyway -- gagged with flags.
The debate was almost entirely over how, not whether, to outlaw flag "desecration". At one point, during the testimony of the Department of Justice, Sen. Strom Thurmond glared at us and inquired of the witness, "Those people back there, with the flags over their mouths for I can't imagine what reason -- If we passed this Amendment, could we have them arrested?"
But of course, not having allowed us to testify, he never found out what our reasons might have been. And much of the renewed debate, especially in Congress, has been conducted in a similar vein. While the views of organizational endorsers of the Amendment (especially some veterans' organizations) have been given wide play, those of indviduals and grassroots organizations that oppose the Amendment -- especially those who actually endorse flag-burning itself, not just the right of others to burn flags -- have remained largely invisible.
It is, perhaps, even more strange that the Constitution should be amended in response to a Supreme Court decision without the parties to that case -- especially those whose arguments were upheld by the Court -- being included in the debate on the Amendment.
But both the defendants in the three 1989 and 1990 Supreme Court flag-burning cases and the dozens of individuals and organizations which filed friend-of-the-court briefs in their support have been largely ignored. Not, I might add, because they are hard for those who look for them to find. Joey Johnson, for example, is available for interviews, debates, and other public speaking. (To reach Joey Johnson, send an email to Edward Hasbrouck at firstname.lastname@example.org)
How can they nullify the ruling in a case named "Texas versus Johnson" and not even consider it newsworthy to ask Johnson what he thinks? Even by bourgeois standards of journalism that seems pretty outrageous to me.
Recently, when Joey Johnson was in town, I invited him by to have a look at the "Flag-Burning Page". A few days later, he sent me an interactive "straw ballot" on the Flag Protection Amendment. "I don't want the ballot to be some sort of narrow know-nothing vote -- just people voting for or against the amendment -- but a ballot that would itself push forward the debate."
Bill Kunstler, the lawyer who represented the flag burners, is no longer with us. (I've included a note on his role in the flag cases, and its significance.) The Emergency Committee has long since disbanded. The records of the Supreme Court flag cases (my own files include more than a thousand pages of pleadings and exhibits from the 3 cases), have been consigned to the microfilm collections of larger law libraries, and are available online only to users of expensive commercial legal databases.
The amicus briefs and exhibits which were submitted to the Supreme Court, and which more than anything else that has been written explain why so may different sorts of people might want to do things that might be considered "desecration", and felt threatened by the flag "protection" measures, have been passed by. (I've included the testimony I submitted on behalf of the Emergency Committee to the 1989 House hearings on the Amendment as an introductory summary of some of those views.)
Finally, I've included some of my own thoughts, and those of Joey Johnson, on the curent status of the Flag Amendment. While we differ on many things, we share a sense of the critical importance of direct action to influence the Senate vote which will come within the next few months.
I hope you find at least some of these items thought-provoking and worth adding to your fine site.
Warren S. Apel