Washington - More right-wing demonstrations are planned in the nation's capital, and District residents are urging short-term rental hosts to keep their properties vacant in an attempt to limit the damage. The hashtag #DontRentDC is trending online following news that far-right activists are organizing more gatherings starting Jan. 16 in opposition to Joe Biden's inauguration. One such gathering is called the "Million Militia March." Thousands of Pres. Trump's supporters traveled to the nation's capital this week before storming the U.S. Capitol in a violent raid Wednesday that led to five deaths.
Lead Prosecutor In Trump Inauguration Protest Trial Sanctioned For Due Process Violations Has Been Made Head Of Her Department
DC jurors weren’t particularly impressed with Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff’s claims that attending a protest makes one part of a conspiracy, as they failed to convict any of the nearly 200 people arrested during an anti-Trump protest. And Chief Judge Robert Morin, was similarly unimpressed by Kerkhoff’s decision to withhold evidence from the defense and mislead the court about it, which is why he sanctioned the prosecution. Yet, someone at the US Attorney’s Office must have been impressed, as since her ignominious defeat Kerkhoff has been promoted. From January 2017 to July 2018, the US Attorney’s Office attempted to criminalize protest itself through felony prosecutions of Trump Inauguration (J20) protests. According to their shocking theory, anyone who attended a protest was part of a criminal conspiracy. Acts such as marching or chanting were elements of a crime.
The US Attorney’s Office (USAO) have announced they are moving to dismiss without prejudice all charges against the remaining 38 protesters arrested during Donald Trump’s Inauguration. The charges stem from an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist protest march, during which DC police indiscriminately deployed “less than lethal” weapons against protesters before arresting 234 people en masse. These arrests were made not on the basis of probable causes based on individualized suspicion, but instead based on geographic proximity to where vandalism was alleged to have occured. Although similar arrests in the past resulted in the city of DC paying out millions to the arrested for violating their constitutional rights, the USAO decided to pursue unprecedented mass felony charges against around 200 people, including not just protesters, but journalists and medics.
Washington, DC–A defendant in the Inauguration Day protest trials was found not guilty by jury trial on Monday. Casey Webber was acquitted of all felony and misdemeanor charges against him stemming from the mass-arrests of 230 protesters during January 20 protests. The trials have come to be known as the J20 trials. Three other defendants are still waiting jury verdicts in the trial, which began on May 14. The jury told Judge Katherine Knowles on Tuesday, that they were deadlocked but she returned them to the jury room until they reached verdicts. Webber said that though his trial was over and has resulted in a positive personal outcome, he did not feel any relief due to seeing the three other defendants in his trial anguishing over the possible outcome.
The prosecution in the J20 case was dealt another major setback today as Chief Judge 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. Yesterday, attorneys for a group of J20 defendants slated to go on trial in June filed a motion alleging the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence. Under what is commonly known as the Brady Rule, it is a violation of a defendant’s constitutional right to due process for the prosecution to be aware of such evidence and not turn it over to the defense.
Washington, DC – The second trial of protesters mass-arrested at an ‘antifascist, anti-capitalist’ march during President Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (J20), 2017 has begun in DC Superior Court. After two days of jury selection, the jury was empaneled Tuesday afternoon, and opening arguments began around 10:30 AM on Wednesday, May 16. In her opening statements, Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff relied on the same rhetorical devices she used in the first trial, giving dramatic descriptions of property damage and invoking the image of a mass of protesters in a “sea of black.” As in the first trial, she introduced a series of large map boards indicating where property damage took place along the route of the protest march, a piece of evidence that also figured heavily in the previous trial.
By Staff of Crimeth Inc - The inauguration defendants aren’t an isolated case. The broad use of conspiracy allegations will have a massive impact on all movements for social justice. The government hopes to set a precedent they can use to threaten anyone with life-altering felony charges and prison time on the basis of political affiliations. If the prosecution wins by turning ordinary aspects of protest organizing into evidence of “conspiracy,” this will stifle dissent of all kinds. Trump came to power by denying the rights and humanity of Mexicans, Muslims, the LGBTQI community, and people of color while promising to intensify policing. He refuses to denounce avowed neo-Nazis even when they murder anti-racist protesters, yet he has made sure that the J20 defendants face the very worst that the law can deliver. His first day in office coincided with an immediate crackdown on political dissent not seen for decades. If you are a part of an organization, please publish a solidarity statement expressing support for the defendants. Now is the time for prominent activists and social justice figures to speak out. You can find an example of a solidarity statement here from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. Write your own! You can also sign a petition demanding that the charges be dismissed.
By Chris Steele for Truthout - A combined total of 12,000 years in prison is what close to 200 protestors, journalists and legal observers are facing from attending a protest at the January 20 inauguration of President Donald Trump. After a superseding indictment, the US prosecution is seeking to charge each person with 60 years for allegedly urging a riot, breaking less than 10 windows and conspiracy charges. The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia claims that the property damage totals to more than $100,000. DC police spent $300,000 on weapons and equipment for the inauguration and just added $150,000 to the DC budget to review police conduct during the inauguration. While many lawyers are calling the blanket felonies and excessive charges unprecedented, civil liberty advocates are worried about the precedent these extensive charges and grandiose metadata subpoenas will have on chilling free speech and stifling dissent. Social activist and community organizer, Carlo Piantini, who is a J20 defendant explained in an interview with Truthout that, "Charges like these are intended to silence communities when the time comes for people to resist, whether that be the activist community, the anarchist community, or any other."
By Mark Hand for Think Progress - Britt Lawson, a registered nurse from Pittsburgh, traveled to Washington in January to serve as a volunteer medic for a weekend of protest activities against president-elect Donald Trump. Lawson ended up spending most of the weekend incarcerated by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). She and more than 200 other people, including journalists and legal observers, were indiscriminately rounded up by police on inauguration day and thrown into jail. “I went to D.C. to use the skills I’ve learned as a nurse in order to support and care for folks standing up against what I view as a system of violence and oppression that will be made worse under a Trump administration,” Lawson said in an interview. In an unprecedented move, U.S. federal prosecutors turned what would have been a normal legal response to a protest — presenting charges to a court against specific protesters who engage in vandalism or violence — into a broader attack on dissent. They charged Lawson and her fellow arrestees — who have become known as the “J20” resistance — with several felonies that could send them to prison for more than 60 years. Out of the legal scramble, Lawson emerged as part of a group of seven defendants who will be first in line to have their cases heard in D.C. Superior Court. Under the current schedule, her trial will start Wednesday and is expected to last at least two weeks.
By Sarah Lazare for The Intercept - A CONSULTANT PAID by the Washington, D.C., City Council to investigate the Metropolitan Police Department’s crackdown on Inauguration Day protesters is coming under scrutiny for what activists and experts say is a bias in favor of police. The Police Foundation, the purportedly independent group conducting the investigation for the city, is poring over charges of police abuses from January 20. The city’s police department faced scrutiny for violence and arrests that targeted anyone in close proximity to an anti-fascist demonstration, part of a thousands-strong “Disrupt J20” protest against Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. Demonstrators were allegedly confronted with arbitrary mass arrests and sexual assault, according a lawsuit filed against D.C. and the police. The lawsuit said those in and around the protest came under attack from chemical agents, such as pepper spray, as well as rubber bullets and stinger grenades. Following the mass arrests, hundreds of people were charged with conspiracy, property destruction, and assault, and now many face decades in prison. Defense attorneys say the mass prosecution is unprecedented in Washington, D.C. The police’s actions on January 20 quickly provoked concern.
By Chip Gibbons for Defending Rights & Dissent - Defending Rights & Dissent was joined by a number of press freedom groups, including Freedom of the Press Foundation, Free Press, Pen America, and the Nation Institute, in sending a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an end to the prosecutions of Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood. Both Cantú and Wood are journalists who were covering a protest march on Inauguration Day 2017, in Washington, DC. They face a number of charges, including engaging in a riot, conspiracy to riot, inciting a riot, and property damage. Since some of the charges are felonies, they face potentially decades in prison. Cantú and Wood were arrested and charged for simply doing their jobs as reporters. Their prosecution endangers press freedom in the United State.
By Chip Gibbons for The Nation - Late next month, the first mass trial will be held for some of the roughly 200 people facing years—or even decades—in prison after being arrested during an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist protest that took place on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The “J20” cases, as they are known, offer a glimpse at the treatment of dissent in this country, and the story they tell is one of overreach and criminalization. Defense lawyers have described the government’s approach as “unprecedented,” its indictments as “littered with fatal irremediable defects.” Sam Menefee-Libey of the DC Legal Posse, a group of activists who provide support to the defendants, was more blunt, criticizing the cases as “blatant political prosecutions” designed to “chill resistance.” The story of the J20 protesters should frighten anyone concerned about the future of both free assembly and dissent in the United States. The charges—which include felony rioting, inciting or urging others to riot, conspiracy to riot, and property destruction—all stem from the same mass arrest, during which police indiscriminately swept up protesters, journalists, and legal observers. What makes the charges all the more troubling is that prosecutors then failed to allege that the bulk of defendants did anything specifically unlawful; rather, merely being at the protest was a crime.
By Kate Conger for Gizmodo - A judge ordered the web hosting company DreamHost to redact identifying information about visitors to a website used to coordinate a protest during President Trump’s inauguration, imposing further limits on an extensive warrant obtained by the Justice Department that initially aimed to collect visitors’ IP addresses. Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the Superior Court of D.C. had previously ordered DreamHost to turn over information about the operators of the website, disruptj20.org. The Justice Department alleged that the site was used to privately communicate plans for a riot, and that it needed the IP addresses of the millions of visitors to the site in order to discover who had incited the violence. After resistance from DreamHost, the Justice Department narrowed the scope of its request. In an order issued today, Morin said that the government would need to submit a report explaining the minimization procedures it would use when searching DreamHost’s data—in short the government would need to explain why it needs everything it needs. Only then would Morin allow the DoJ to review redacted data, and the government would again have to provide the court with its justification for removing any redactions. “Because of the potential breadth of the government’s review in this case, the Warrant in its execution may implicate otherwise innocuous and constitutionally protected activity,” Morin wrote.
By Baynard Woods for The Real News Network - MPD deployed the weapons during massive protests of Donald Trump’s inauguration. At some point around 10:00 a.m. on the morning of the inauguration some protesters began breaking windows of major corporations on 13th Street NW between Logan Circle and Franklin Square. The protesters who engaged in vandalism were dressed in all black as part of a so-called “black bloc.” In the statement of notice for an expert witness set to appear in the first trial related to the case, which begins on Nov. 20, the prosecutors argue that the “‘black bloc’ tactic involves participants dressing in all black clothing and concealing their faces with masks, bandanas, and other clothing items. This tactic makes it difficult for law enforcement to identify the individual perpetrators of violence or destruction within the larger group.” Shortly after the police encountered the group, they began to deploy weapons, spraying large amounts of pepper spray (I was covering the event and was hit with spray). Platoon 32, for instance, emptied four large MK46 canisters and seven smaller canisters of the irritant.
By Stephanie Lacambra for EFF - District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert Morin ruled today that DreamHost must comply with federal prosecutors’ narrowed warrant seeking communications and records about an Inauguration Day protest website: disruptj20.org; but they will have to present the court with a “minimization plan” that includes the names of all government investigators who will have access to the data and a list of all the methods that they will be using to search the evidence. This is an important step in ensuring judicial oversight of the government’s digital search. While we are glad to see that the judge is taking steps to oversee the government's “narrowed” search, EFF has long warned against the problems with the two-step approach of overseizure of digital information followed by a search of the information for evidence responsive to the warrant. Because of the vast troves of data that the government has access to in these cases, it risks executing a general search, the very danger that the Fourth Amendment is meant to guard against. As the en banc 9th Circuit warned in 2010:“The process of segregating electronic data that is seizable from that which is not must not become a vehicle for the government to gain access to data which it has no probable cause to collect.”