[Pnews] J20 protest trial activists found not guilty - expected to set the precedent for how the remaining 186 defendants will be prosecuted

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 21 14:06:35 EST 2017


  J20 protest trial latest: Anti-Trump activists found not guilty and
  avoid lengthy prison sentences

  * Emily Shugerman
    <http://www.independent.co.uk/author/emily-shugerman> - 21 December 2017


Six defendants facing decades in prison for protesting Donald Trump’s 
<http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/DonaldTrump> inauguration have been 
found not guilty, in a trial that raised serious questions about First 
Amendment rights in the age of Trump.

A Washington, DC jury cleared the defendants of all seven charges 
against them, which included rioting and multiple counts of property 
destruction. The defendants were the first of nearly 200 people slated 
to stand trial for their involvement in the 20 January protests. Their 
trial is expected to set the precedent for how the remaining 186 
defendants will be prosecuted.

Jude Ortiz, a member of the Defend J20 team that mobilised to support 
the defendants, called the decision "a victory for political organising".

"The prosecutor was trying to claim political organising was 
conspiracy," Mr Oritz told/The Independent/, "...and these acquittals 
show that that logic is not being bought."

He added: "Hopefully that will send a very persuasive message to 
prosecutors everywhere that they’re not going to get away with 
criminalising protest organising."

    In pictures: Protests, pomp and Donald Trump

The Disrupt J20 march 
was an anti-capitalist demonstration that occurred alongside 
Inauguration-Day protests such as the Women's March and the "Trump 420" 
protest in Dupont Circle. Unlike these other protests, however, hundreds 
of protestors from the Defend J20 march were arrested for their 

In the late morning of 20 January, Metropolitan Police surrounded and 
arrested more than 200 of the participants in a tactic known as 
kettling. Authorities claim some of the participants had broken windows, 
thrown chairs, and even assaulted a limousine driver, according to an 

In their opening arguments, however, the prosecution conceded they had 
no evidence that any of the first six defendants engaged in any of the 
property destruction themselves. Instead, the state urged jurors to 
convict based on the defendant’s participation in the march itself.

“Each of them made a choice, and each of them played a role,” Assistant 
U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff told jurors of the defendants, according 
to the Huffington Post. “You don’t personally have to be the one who 
breaks the window to be guilty of rioting.”

Anti-Donald Trump protests erupt across US as cities declare billionaire 
'Not My President'

One of the defendants, Britt Lawson, was a registered nurse who said she 
attended the event to provide medic services to anyone injured. The 
prosecution claimed Ms Lawson's bag of medical supplies was evidence 
that the nurse had come "prepared for war".

Another defendant, photojournalist Alexei Woods, said he was reporting 
on the event when he was arrested. The prosecution claimed his 
occasional cheers – which can be heard in his own, livestreamed video of 
the protest – were evidence of his active participation.

After the jury handed down their decision on Thursday, Mr Woods declared 
the verdict "a direct-action push-back against Trump’s anti-free-press 

"I am excited about people being able to speak freely, and being able to 
report the best they can," he told /The Independent/.

Multiple people in the courtroom burst into tears when Mr Woods, Ms 
Lawson, and their four co-defendants were cleared. Several of the 186 
other defendants who have yet to stand trial were also in the courtroom 
that day. While their futures are less certain, observers said many of 
them celebrated along with the six who were cleared.

"It’s been rare in 2017 to have tears of joy," Mr Ortiz said, "So to 
hear every 'not guilty,' one after the other ... People were just 
sobbing out of joy and surprise."

  * More about:
  * DisruptJ20 <http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/disruptj20>
  * J20 <http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/j20>

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