230 people were mass arrested during demonstrations against Donald Trump's Inauguration.
The arrests were made by use of a "kettle" technique on the corners of 12th and L Streets, after no orders to disperse. 214 of these arrestees were charged under the Federal Riot Statute. On April 27th, multiple additional felony charges were added. In December 2017, one trial group was acquitted of all charges. The Attorney's Office dropped charges against an additional 129 defendants on January 18, 2018. In May, a jury ended up in a deadlock amidst revelations that the prosecution had committed large Brady violations.
The attorney's office dropped all remaining charges in this case on July 6th, 2018. It could not have been achieved without solidarity amongst defendants, extensive logistical support, and the hard work of sympathetic defense lawyers.
The prosecution's case rests on a broad interpretation of the Federal Riot Statute, which could make a participant in a political rally guilty for any property damage that takes place during that time. A superceding indictment added addtional charges of urging to riot, conspiracy to riot, individualized property damange, and for over half the group, assaulting an officer or resisting arrest. These additional charges were given with no new group evidence or individual particulars.
The DC Attorney's Office is trying to set a repressive precedent for political expression under the administration of Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It is incumbent upon anyone who values dissent to stand in solidarity with the defendents in this case. This case in many way resembles the 800 water protectors in the midst of Grand Jury processes in North Dakota, those arrested during actions against Confederate statues and rulings on police violence, and other resisters arrested and charged under riot statutes throughout the country.
While the charges in this case have been dropped, the DC Police have made early statements that they intend to alter the riot act in such a way that it will become easier to prosecute specific kinds of protest in court. The prosecutor and lead detective for this case were ideologically motivated in a way that weakened their own case, The Intercept: With Last Charges Against J20 Protestors Dropped, Defendants Seek Accountability for Prosecutors">but gave a clear sign that there is a concerted effort underway to limit and criminalize political expression in Washington, DC. The mobilization of supporters and expressions of public opinion in this case made a strong show of resistance to a crackdown on political organizing and more militant forms of protest. The victory of no convictions in this case and the melt-down of the prosecution cannot be overstated!
While we take a stand against the muslim ban, ICE, water pipelines and ecological devastation, police shootings of unarmed black men, and the exclusion of radical queer expresison, the police are constantly strategizing methods to limit the scope of these protests. The specific targeting of militant, anti-fascist, Black Lives Matter, pro-labor, and anti-state protest has existed throughout the history of policing and requires constant vigilance to keep those individuals out of jail. In the J20 case, we specifically found a prosector, Jennifer Kerkhoff, and lead detective, Greggory Pemberton, who actively contribute to this effort using methods of intimidation, and withholding of evidence. This team have been at this game for years, and will continue to over-charge and use intimidation to score convictions against a disproportionate number of people of color in the District.
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