Second J20 Trial Ends in Acquittals & Mistrials, Solidarity for Remaining Defendants Still Needed

By Defend J20 Resistance

Last week the trial for the latest group of four J20 defendants ended in the prosecution's failure to convict any of the defendants on a single charge. One defendant was acquitted on all charges, the jury was deadlocked on all charges for another defendant and mixed on charges for the remaining two defendants. Since a unanimous verdict is needed for either acquittal or conviction, a deadlocked jury means a mistrial on those charges and the prosecution has 30 days to decide whether to re-file those charges or dismiss them. This leaves three of the defendants currently in limbo, not knowing whether or not they'll face another trial.

These three defendants have a hearing scheduled on July 11th during which the state may re-file charges. Ongoing solidarity is still needed for these defendants in the form of in-court presence if you live or will be present in the DC area. It's still unclear what these developments mean for future defendants facing trials this summer and fall. However, it is clear that the state has been unable to convict any defendants in trial, including those who allegedly damaged property.

From a former defendant in the May 14th trial group, "I am elated that the trial came to an end with not a single victory for #FuckOffKerkhoff and the state; I can’t deny however that after all that for only some partial verdicts and mistrials this has been a huge waste of time. We were very fortunate to have a huge support group at our backs the whole way who poured endless compassion and solidarity into my experience. For that I thank them. I won’t forget how I witnessed the true love in radical spaces. Court solidarity pulled me thru this ultimately and I can’t stress enough how important it is to show up for people who are being dragged thru the criminal justice system. I have witnessed many heartbreaks in my month on trial and seen the state deal brutality on families or people who are there absolutely alone. We are all political prisoners as far as I am concerned so let’s get out there and share some cigarettes and shoelaces, or lunch if you can. I reject the legitimacy of the so-called United States and any judgements therein".

We feel relieved that our friends from this trial block remain free from criminal convictions in this case. We care about all J20 defendants and everyone affected by the criminal legal system, and seek to reduce the harm this system has on our lives. However, we don't believe it is possible--even in the case of acquittals--to truly "win" within the court system. We challenge the notion that there exists such a thing as a "fair" or "ethical" trial. Whether the courts decide someone is innocent or guilty, we reject the legitimacy of their control over our lives. The legal system, the laws on which it is based, and how those laws skew our sense of morality all uphold the fundamental injustices of the United States. More than facts or the notion of guilt, one's experience and treatment in court is dictated by race, gender, citizenship, and access to specialized and expensive resources. Our support for all J20 defendants is not dependent on whether they did or didn't do the acts the state alleges.

We reject the state's attempts to define how people in social movements fight injustice. We challenge the dichotomy between "good protesters" who were "just marching" and "bad protesters" who allegedly damaged property or organized the protest. The J20 charges are aimed at disrupting a our social movements as a whole, across the differences of opinion we may have about tactics. The state and its authoritarian collaborators hope the fear caused by repression will keep movements from using confrontational tactics. But, we can overcome their attempts to fragment us by emphasizing solidarity over division. Whatever our individual opinions on tactics, we believe in opposing all repression from the state. Nobody deserves to have their life disrupted by the violence of the state, whether that looks like a police baton on Inauguration day, doxxing by the far-right, or the anxiety and strain that comes from the prospect or reality of up to 60+ years in prison.

Social movements in this country and worldwide--labor movements and civil rights movements, for example--have always relied on a variety of tactics (many of which have been deemed unlawful) in order to meet their demands. Notably, the felony rioting statue being used to prosecute the Inauguration Day defendants was shaped by mid-century fears of black revolutionary politics. In this case, The U.S. District Attorny has singled out numerous people of color and alleged that they damaged property. One example, is the May 14th trial where Michael Basilas, a trans womxn immigrant of color from the Phillipines, is accused of breaking several windows.

We further challenge the valorization of "political" defendants and prisoners over other people whose lives and families are vulnerable to state violence. The people most often and most brutally affected by the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD), anti-rioting laws, and the horror of the criminal legal system are not protesters on Inauguration Day, but people of color living in so-called Washington D.C who face this abhorrant system every day. The same MPD that beat protesters on January 20th, 2017 is the same MPD that beat Black D.C. resident Samuel Cooper while he was handcuffed and later charged him with assaulting an officer. The same police force who murdered Terrence Sterling, Ralphael Briscoe, DQuan Young, Jeffrey Price, and Alonzo Smith. The same police force who harrass black and brown people in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Shaw, Columbia Heights, and Brightwood. The same MPD who use jumpout squads (AKA stop-and-frisk on wheels), SWAT raids, and other modern policing tactics that are a hallmark of the so-called War on Drugs to disempower Black communities daily. The use of physical violence that is called "police brutality" is the trademark of policing in the modern American prison industrial complex and its twisted logic is a direct descendant of a national history of slavery that defined mostly black/brown humans as property.

The J20 defendants aren't an exceptional category of people who are somehow "undeserving" of this treatment; nobody deserves this, yet it is part and parcel of how the criminal legal system operates.

Though the state's case appears to be crumbling, we need people to show up now more than ever for the remaining defendants. Unlike most DC residents who are affected by the criminal legal system, J20 defendants have access to a local, national, and international movement that many DC residents who are affected by the criminal legal system do not have. There are numerous organizations in DC --Black Lives Matter DC and Stop Police Terror to name two--who are actively organizing in response to police violence and systemic racism in the DC area. We encourage J20 supporters to understand our struggles as interconnected, and support these organizations. We also want to highlight the continued need for solidarity for our friends in Hamilton, Ontario, water protectors in the Midwestand elsewhere, and with others fighting back against state repression in all its forms.

til we're all free,

some J20 defendants and supporters