Saturday, September 22, 2018

DOJ drop remaining charges against #J20 protesters

"Upon consideration of the government's motion to dismiss in this case, it is: ORDERED that these cases be dismissed without prejudice."

Image Credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

After the “Disrupt J20” event brought the arrests of 234 people during a protest in Washington D.C. on inauguration day in 2017, all the remaining criminal charges against protesters were dropped on Friday.

An end to an ongoing year of trials and motions where protesters were charged with felony rioting, which carries a sentence of more than 60 years in jail, came to an end at the order of a judge.

“Upon consideration of the government’s motion to dismiss in this case, it is: ORDERED that these cases be dismissed without prejudice,” Judge Robert Morin’s order read.

“Disrupt J20,” a political organization formed in July 2016, organized a rally aimed to protest, disrupt and resist events of the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017. On inauguration day, hundreds of protesters were arrested and accused of causing more than $100,000 worth of damage to private and public property by authorities.

While most charges were dropped against the defendants in January 2018, one protester plead guilty to a felony rioting charge and 21 other protesters plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.

But the sudden move to dismiss the remaining 38 criminal cases comes after the “prosecutors conceded that the conduct of the remaining defendants had been in ‘sharp contrast’ to that of the individuals who had pleaded guilty to criminal charges,” Mic reported.

“The state failed at silencing dissent and today our movement is stronger than it was on #J20,”Dylan Petrohilos, a defendant charged with conspiracy, rioting, and destruction due to his participation in planning to protest – even though he did not attend – tweeted. “I’m proud of all my co-defendants, and everyone in the streets who resisted fascism and state violence.”

After the first six defendants tried were acquitted in December 2017, the prosecution dropped 150 additional cases in February 2018 – a year and a month after the initial arrests – because of insufficient evidence and withholding evidence from the defense – videos shot by the conservative group Project Veritas – ” Huffington Post reported. And a trial in May of four prpotesters that ended in one acquittal and a hung jury for the rest eventually set up the remaining 39 criminal charges to be dropped because of the “inability to convince juries that the individuals in question had indeed committed the acts of vandalism they stood accused of,” Mic reported.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia believes that the evidence shows that a riot occurred on January 20, 2017, during which more than $100,000 in damage was caused to numerous public and private properties,” a statement said. “The destruction that occurred during these criminal acts was in sharp contrast to the peaceful demonstrations and gatherings that took place over the Inauguration weekend in the District of Columbia, and created a danger for all who were nearby.”

Many J20 protesters said that while “a handful of people took plea bargains, the majority stood together and refused to negotiate deals they thought could put their co-defendants at risk,” Al Jazeera reported.

“Solidarity was what won the case,” Sam Menefee-Libey, a member of the DC Legal Posse activist collective, said to the Associated Press. “I hope that organizers and people on the left study it.”

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