““They came here on inauguration day expecting to be able to express their free speech right, and instead, they were kettled, their civil rights were violated, and now, they are facing years, some even decades, in prison.”
On Thursday, August 24, 2017 Chief Judge Robert E. Morin issued a ruling from the bench that DreamHost must turn over information from DisruptJ20.org to prosecutors. This warrant stems from the unconstitutional prosecutions of J20 protesters. As a result, it has the potential to broaden an ongoing witch hunt. Even if this weren’t the case, given the chilling effect the government’s request will have on speech the warrant should have been rejected.
Defending Rights & Dissent expresses its deep sense of dismay that a DC Superior Court Judge has refused to dismiss charges against participants in a counter-inauguration protest. The currently nearly 200 defendants face multiple felony charges carrying up to decades in prison for participating in a First Amendment protected assembly.
On Monday November 20, 2017, prosecution and defense gave opening arguments in the trial of the first of the six people–one journalists, two medics, and three protesters– swept up in the mass arrest of Inauguration Day Protesters. What was startling was how many of the key facts were not in dispute. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys purport that any of the six people on trial personally engaged in any destruction.
On November 13, 2017 Defending Rights & Dissent sent a letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In our letter, we alerted both special rapporteurs to the ways in which the trials and arrest of the inauguration protesters violate international human rights norms.
Defending Rights & Dissent was joined by allies Free Press, Demand Progress, DropJ20, and the ACLU of DC in delivering over 50,000 signature to the US Attorney’s Office calling on the Department of Justice to end its prosecution of protesters arrested on Inauguration Day in Washington, DC.
“The dismissal of the felony charge is a tremendous victory for the six defendants, their attorneys, and the activists who have mobilized to support them. We, nonetheless, are deeply disturbed by the failure to dismiss the other seven charges, including five counts of property damage, conspiracy to riot, and engaging in ariot. In her ruling, Judge Leibovitz endorsed some of the most disturbing arguments of the prosecution.”
The Department of Justice’s continuing felony prosecutions stemming from an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist protest during Trump’s inauguration has taken yet another bizarre turn. Earlier this month Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff indicated her intent to call as an expert witness, an FBI agent who infiltrated social movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, to opine on “black bloc tactics.” The government has also requested that the witness testify publicly under an alias. They cite as cause for concern about the “safety and security” of the FBI agent the fact that journalists and other observers (including the author of this piece) reported on public testimony during the last trial.
A day after the petitions were delivered, we learned that the trial, set to start April 17, had been delayed again.
If the prosecution can’t in “good conscience, ask another fourteen citizens” to sit through a trial of protesters, there’s a solution. Drop the charges.
The prosecution in the J20 case was dealt another major setback today as Chief Justice Robert Morin found that they failed to disclose to the defense parts of an undercover video containing clearly exculpatory evidence. An edited version of the video was part of the prosecution’s case-in-chief during the first J20 trial and was expected to be so in an upcoming trial. Now, with the prosecution facing sanctions, there are questions as to whether they will be allowed to show the video at all.
While prosecutors were going ahead with closing arguments in one set of J20 trials, one floor above in the same courthouse a judge was issuing sanctions against the government for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence. In a huge blow to prosecutors, conspiracy charges will be dismissed with prejudice against ten defendants and seven defendants had all of their remaining charges dismissed without prejudice.
Today, was yet another day of setbacks for the prosecution,as the government dismissed charges against three more J20 defendants. In another J20 trial, a jury acquitted defendant Cathseigh Webber of all charges after less than two days of deliberations.
The second trial of Trump Inauguration protesters arrested during an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march has ended without a single conviction.