Washington, DC – Today, three of the four members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Adrienne Pine, David Paul and Margaret Flowers, who stayed in the Venezuelan Embassy last year to stop its illegal handover to coup leaders, are finished with their six-month probation and 30-day suspended sentence. The fourth member of the collective, Kevin Zeese, died unexpectedly in September. The three collective members are traveling to Venezuela to serve as official election observers for the National Assembly election to be held on December 6, 2020.
Embassy Protection Collective
On the morning of June 3, four U.S. citizens from the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective (EPC) who engaged in a two-week-long standoff with right-wing Venezuelan exile hooligans and members of Juan Guaidó’s coup administration entered a plea agreement with the U.S. government. The chief Judge for the U.S. District Court District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, sentenced David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, and Adrienne Pine to six months of probation and fines totaling $750 each. Additionally, Judge Howell ordered the four defendants to stay away from the building which formally served as Venezuela’s embassy in Washington D.C., threatening them with 30 day jail terms if they failed to meet the conditions of their probation.
Federal charges against the four protectors of the Venezuelan Embassy, who defended the building in Washington DC against violent opposition crowds for several weeks between April 10 and May 16 of 2019, were completely dropped in a case that was brought directly by prosecutors of the Trump administration. After several months of proceedings that produced a mistrial in February 2020, the four activists expressed in a public statement that “Today’s sentence marks yet another victory in the effort to protect the Venezuelan Embassy. The Embassy Protection Collective broke through the blockade and got supplies to the people inside; the people inside prevented the coup supporters from staying in the embassy; the embassy was not turned over to Guaidó—it remains empty today—and now the federal charges have been dropped.”
Washington, DC - The federal charge of “interfering with certain protective functions” levied against four members of the Embassy Protection Collective was formally dropped today in a hearing before Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell in US District Court. The four defendants are Adrienne Pine, David Paul, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers. They were arrested on May 16 2019 when federal police raided the Venezuelan Embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention, which requires host countries to protect embassies and restricts them from entering without permission from the sovereign government. Judge Howell sentenced the Embassy Protective Collective to no jail time. After a jury refused to convict them in early February, resulting in a mistrial, the prosecutors offered to drop the federal charge and substitute one of most minor local misdemeanor charges in the DC Code, incommoding, basically causing a disturbance.
Washington, DC - Today, activists with CODEPINK went to the Venezuelan Embassy in the posh Georgetown neighborhood to find out if the Embassy was providing consular services. Leo Flores, a Venezuelan, rang the doorbell but nobody answered the door. When journalist Anya Parampil asked if the embassy was able to provide consular services, a police officer outside replied, "No, it's not an actual working embassy." Last week, when the four Embassy Protectors who were arrested on May 16 during the US government's raid of the embassy in violation of the Vienna Convention were tried in court, the prosecutor repeatedly stated that it was necessary to remove the protectors so the embassy could be "returned to Ambassador Vecchio."
The word “Kafkaesque” is thrown around liberally in the modern era, often without warrant. “The Trial,” a 1925 novel written by Bohemian writer Franz Kafka, tells the story of Josef K., a man arrested and prosecuted in a nightmarish kangaroo court while unable to properly defend himself. But nearly 100 years later, another real trial took place in our modern American dystopia, one which easily qualifies for the moniker. Starting February 11, four anti-war activists, Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers and David Paul, were facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine each for interfering with the protective function of the State Department. Today, despite a hostile judge and a host of constraints against the defense, prosecutors were unable to convince a jury that any crime had been committed and the events ended in a mistrial.
A hung jury in the Donald Trump administration’s case against activists who were arrested protecting Venezuela’s internationally recognized embassy in Washington, DC is being heralded as a major win for sovereignty, amid the US government’s floundering coup attempt against the Chavista government in Caracas. On February 14, a jury of 12 DC residents were deadlocked over the issue of the embassy defenders, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial — in a blow to the federal government and to a judicial system that had stacked the odds against them.
A US citizen who participated in the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective was detained, searched and interrogated for the second time by US government agents about his political beliefs and participation in the anti-war movement. On his way back from a Christmas visit to his family in Nicaragua, 31-year-old US citizen Sergio Lazo Torrez was detained by Customs and Border Patrol officers.
A pretrial hearing of the four Embassy Protectors facing federal prosecution took place before Judge Beryl A. Howell on January 29 in Washington, DC. The hearing, which was to define the parameters of the upcoming trial, became complicated as the judge learned more about the facts of the case. When the hearing started, Judge Howell stated that she expected to rule on all the issues requiring decisions that day. She added that her previous ruling on discovery, where she denied all of the defendants’ discovery requests, ought to tell the defendants what to expect. However, after four hours, the judge decided to delay some of her decisions on critical elements such as what the jury will be allowed to hear and whether the Embassy Protectors will be able to present a meaningful defense.
The U.S. government’s accusation against of the four members of the Embassy Protectors Collective is merely a pretext used for their arrest and prosecution, since they haven’t broken any laws. On Feb. 11, four American peace activists, known as the Embassy Protectors Collective, will be tried before the U.S. empire for “interfering with certain protective functions” of its Federal government for their occupation of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. to prevent it from being handed over to coup leaders sponsored by the Trump administration. Their occupation ended on May 16, 2019, when federal agents broke into the sealed embassy, against international law, and arrested them in a swat style raid. The government’s accusation against them is merely a pretext used for their arrest and prosecution since they haven’t broken any laws.
As we approach the Embassy Protectors’ trial, currently scheduled for February 11, 2020, both sides are filing documents relevant to the trial. These will be argued at the next court hearing on January 29. Among the issues the Trump administration is asking not be discussed in the trial are the following: — The fact that the president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro. — The legitimacy of Juan Guaido representing the Venezuelan government. — That Carlos Vecchio, whose demand that the Protectors leave the embassy was the basis of their eviction, is not an ambassador from Venezuela but part of the Guaido failed coup. — That they were in the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela. — That they received legal advice that we were in the embassy legally.
The US government has dropped its bogus charge of “simple assault” against journalist Max Blumenthal, after having him arrested on a 5-month-old warrant and jailed for nearly two days. The Grayzone has learned that Secret Service call logs recorded during the alleged incident were either not kept or destroyed. The mysteriously missing evidence included print documents and radio recordings that may have exposed collusion between Secret Service officers operating under the auspices of the US State Department and violent right-wing hooligans in an operation to besiege peace activists stationed inside Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC.
The newly formed Embassy Protectors Defense Committee created in response to the arrest and bogus charges leveled by the Trump Administration against the last four remaining activists of the Embassy Protective Collective that occupied the Venezuela Embassy for 37 days, has launched an international campaign to demand that the Trump administration drop all Federal charges against the protectors.