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J20 defendants arrested at Trump inauguration need support


Protesters in D.C. during Trump’s inauguration got prosecuted under federal not municipal law. This is highly unusual. Yup, some windows got smashed and a limo was burned. However, the 194 defendants could not have participated in that destruction. They were kettled for hours and the destruction happened after that. Yet that is what they are being prosecuted for. This is a nasty, vindictive prosecution, made much worse by the charges being federal. The conviction rate in federal court is 90%. Penalties and sentences are more severe too. We should support the defendants.The best way is to publicize this trial as much as possible.

When I was helping organize Iraq anti-war protests in Los Angeles, we made sure people knew the rules were different if the protest was on federal land, like at the Westwood federal building. 29% of D.C. land is federal, so anyone arrested on such land can technically be charged in federal court. That generally doesn’t happen with protesters …until it does.

The charges are serious. Some defendants could get decades in prison. They were kettled by police for hours. The limo was burned AFTER they were kettled. Some are being prosecuted at least in part because they were wearing black, so must be crazed anarchists and thus a hideous conspiracy.

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 additional charges of urging to riot, conspiracy to riot, individualized property damage, 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.

Crimethinc has info and a list of ways you can help.

Police and media outlets have dishonestly represented the J20 case from the beginning, in hopes of concealing this assault on the right to protest. For example, on at least two occasions, Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Peter Newsham inaccurately claimed that the people he ordered mass-arrested had started the limousine fire on Inauguration Day. This is flagrantly and intentionally dishonest. The limousine was set on fire several hours after the hundreds of defendants facing charges were kettled and detained by MPD.