I’m going to keep dredging this up because every time there is a development in this case, I am positively floored by how draconian and authoritarian the prosecution is.
The case against the J20 protesters–over 200 people who were kettled and mass arrested because they wore the same colours as someone who broke a window–has been repeatedly described as “unprecedented.” For starters, there is the simultaneous charge of both conspiracy to commit rioting and having committed the riot itself. Instead of evidence of intent factoring into sentencing provisions, the prosecution, by pressing both, is trying to bilk the defendants for a maximum sentence of 20 years instead of 10.
This is on top of the evidence for the third felony charge–inciting a riot: “Anti-capitalist slogans.” Also a 10 year max sentence. The indictment clearly describes that there were half a dozen defendants who are alleged to have actually carried out property destruction, so it is unclear how the half dozen could be accused of inciting the riot, or the 194 alleged inciters of committing it.
Yep, those freeze peachers will be here any second now, I’m positive.
Lastly, the five counts of property destruction (5 years max a piece) clearly name which defendants they accuse of directly perpetrating the action, and yet the prosecution has gone ahead to press all five charges to all 200 odd defendants. This includes a defendant who didn’t actually participate in the protest, but merely organized it.
And they’re being tried collectively. (emphasis added)
In the haze of the growing national conversation on free speech, organizing tactics, and state repression, one event has been nearly lost in wider the discussion: what happened to protesters who came out onto the streets of Washington, D.C., on January 20, also known as J20.
Aggressive police tactics, mass arrests, and blanket felony charges against protesters have become an aside in light of recent events, despite the tremendous weight of criminal prosecution still in progress. While police violence is certainly nothing new, the way in which the press has handled the targeting of J20 activists is an indictment of how the media often acts as stenographers, simply regurgitating the state’s language. It is also an indication of how resistance will be handled by Donald Trump’s administration, and how that will impact organizing in the years to come.
One of the J20 defendants, whose identity is being withheld so they could speak freely about their pending case, tells Shadowproof the accused are being tried in groups. “I have no idea how that’s supposed to work or how I can be responsible for what seven other strangers who will be tried alongside me did, and we may file a motion to sever. The livestreamer going to trial in November, Alexei Wood, is attempting to have his trial severed from the group, but the government is opposing his motion.”
“My feeling is they know the cases are bullshit and that would be evident if they had to try people individually,” the defendant said. “That’s why they have the conspiracy charge. The prosecutor stated in the recent arguments for the collective motion to dismiss that ‘it is the group that is the danger, the group that is criminal.’”
“I’m worried the cases have gone as far as they have because it means the judges are finding legitimacy in the theory of conspiracy presented by the prosecutors. I’m terrified but having my fingers crossed that public outrage can do something.”
So one reason I am thoroughly unconvinced that anyone standing up for the speech of white supremacists is doing so “on the principle of free speech” is that they’ve been completely apathetic to the J20 case–despite the fact that the precedents, if they are accepted, would undermine the ability to organize at all. You would be criminally liable for the actions of people who are not yourself. Simply supplying logistics at a protest that goes haywire could get you indicted. And if you happen to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’re a conspirator! Every civil rights movement henceforth would be hamstrung from the outset. The FBI wouldn’t need to fabricate evidence at all. I cannot understate the severity of this case.
If served consecutively, the maximum sentence for this ticket is at least 55 years, and potentially more depending on how the prosecution can finagle the charges.
I’m sure I’ll see the freeze peachers at the next action.
Read more about the egregious conduct of the prosecution here.