Six Defendants Acquitted in First DisruptJ20 Trial

Written by Subject: United States

Six Defendants Acquitted in First DisruptJ20 Trial

by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org - Home - Stephen Lendman)

The hashtag #DisruptJ20 became a rallying cry to protest at Trump's January inauguration - a First Amendment right for everyone if conducted nonviolently.

Founded in July 2016, DisruptJ20 activities began post-election via social media. Organizer Regba Carrefour said the "umbrella coalition of groups (aimed) to undermine Trump's presidency from the get-go."

Inauguration day featured police state tactics against DisruptJ20 and others protesting on Trump's inauguration day - 194 individuals arrested, most protesting peacefully, including independent journalists doing their jobs, covering what went on.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) commented on the acquittal of the first six defendants brought to trial, saying:

"In a tremendous victory for the right to dissent, a Washington, DC jury has found all six defendants in the first 'J20' trial not guilty on all charges." 

"The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) welcomes this verdict despite the politically motivated charges that were leveled against them and the 188 other defendants who were 'kettled,' experienced abusive police tactics, and were arrested en masse during protests against the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017."

"The jury's decision represents a resounding victory, as they refused to substantiate the prosecution's complete lack of evidence and view of political organizing as criminal activity," said Jude Ortiz, NLG Mass Defense Committee Chair and organizer with Defend J20 Resistance."

Wrongful charges against the defendants included multiple counts of rioting and conspiracy to riot, along with additional multiple counts of felony property destruction.

Defendants included two medical personnel, a journalist, and a college student, facing long prison terms if convicted of exercising their legitimate First Amendment rights of assembly and free expression.

Last February, the NLG called on federal prosecutors to drop all charges against nonviolent J20 protesters, legal observers, journalists, and others violating no laws.

The ACLU praised Friday's acquittal, senior staff attorney Scott Michelman, saying the following:

"Today's verdict reaffirms two central constitutional principles of our democracy: first, that dissent is not a crime, and second, that our justice system does not permit guilt by association." 

"We hope today's verdict begins the important work of teaching police and prosecutors to respect the line between lawbreaking and constitutionally protected protest." 

"We hope that the US Attorney's Office gets the message and moves quickly to drop all remaining changes against peaceful demonstrators."

"For nearly a year, these people have been under the cloud of felony charges that have turned their lives upside down, subjecting them to the anxiety and expense of defending themselves against charges that should never have been brought." 

"No one should have to fear arrest or prosecution for coming to the nation's capital to express opinions peacefully, no matter what those opinions may be."

"Through our civil lawsuit against the police, the ACLU-DC will continue to fight for demonstrators' constitutional rights."

Scores of other defendants face trials next year. Police state viciousness defines policymaking of Republicans and undemocratic Dems.

Exonerated defendants aren't home free if Trump administration prosecutors intend bringing new charges against them - a common tactic in Washington both parties use at their discretion when determined to railroad defendants.

Others awaiting trial may be treated the same way - if convicted to be imprisoned longterm, if exonerated threatened with possible new charges brought against them.

Last June, the ACLU sued the District of Columbia and DC's metropolitan police department on behalf of four abused inauguration day protesters.

It charged unlawful mass round-up tactics, pepper-spraying and otherwise abusing peaceful demonstrators, wrongfully arresting and detaining them, along with depriving them of food, water and access to bathrooms for many hours.

The case is pending in Washington DC federal district court.

The late Howard Zinn and others called dissent the highest form of patriotism - affirmed under the First Amendment.

Brutalizing protesters is commonplace in US cities, notably against global justice, anti-war, and Occupy Wall Street activists in recent years - flagrantly violating constitutional and international law.

Violence and vandalism, when committed, can't be condoned. Nor can false accusations of these and other offenses.

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My newest book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."