17 arrested after protests, flag burning at RNC in Cleveland

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CLEVELAND--Police say 17 people were arrested Wednesday following a chaotic protest near the arena housing the Republican National Convention.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: A group tries to burn an American flag as police move in near the sight of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in downtown Cleveland on the third day of the convention on July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many people have stayed away from downtown due to road closures and the fear of violence. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: A group tries to burn an American flag as police move in near the sight of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in downtown Cleveland on the third day of the convention on July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many people have stayed away from downtown due to road closures and the fear of violence. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Lt. Michael Butler of the Cleveland Police Department said Wednesday that charges were pending for between 10 and 16 people, but a tweet from the department's Facebook page later on said 17 had been arrested. So far, since the RNC started on Monday there have been 22 total arrests.

Butler said the individuals were held in jail vans while police identified and photographed each one, spoke to the arresting officers and took a short narrative of what happened.

Cleveland police say two officers were punched and pushed, and suffered minor injuries during the chaotic protest centered on a flag burning near the Quicken Loans Arena, which is currently housing the Republican National Convention.

Police say the flag was extinguished and taken away, but not before the person who lit it lit himself on fire, and it spread, lighting others on fire. No one had serious injuries.

One of the individuals whose pants were on fire got defensive when an officer tried to extinguish the blaze and assaulted the officer.

Police issued a dispersal order for everyone, including reporters Wednesday.

The protests briefly made it difficult for convention delegates and reporters to enter the arena. Police officers told delegates Wednesday to line up on a yellow line in the street and ordered all others to leave the area.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams was one of several officers checking delegates' credentials before letting them through a barrier created by bicycle officers.

Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which organized the flag burning, says the group hoped to conduct the event as a political statement quickly before police came.

But the man whose three-decade-old protest led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision finding flag burning constitutional was arrested for burning a flag at the Republican National Convention.

Gregory "Joey" Johnson was one of the 17 arrested.

Johnson was the defendant in the case that led to the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled flag-burning constitutional. The case dated to Johnson's burning of a flag outside the Republican National Convention in Dallas in 1984.