In First Amendment Victory, Federal Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Remaining Trump Inauguration Protesters

Posted on July 9, 2018

According to a new article by The Guardian, last week federal prosecutors dropped charges on the last 39 demonstrators participating in a Washington, DC Inauguration Day protest who were awaiting trial on felony rioting charges, among other alleged offenses. The protest against the inauguration of President Trump on January 20, 2017, known as Disrupt J20 or J20, involved individual acts of property damage, but was otherwise orderly and nonviolent.

As CCDBR previously noted in its coverage of the developments on the J20 prosecution, from the beginning the case against the more than 200 demonstrators facing felony rioting charges was marred by police breach of crowd control protocol, including arrest tactics in which an entire city block the demonstrators occupied was closed off and the enclosed demonstrators summarily arrested. This blow to protesters’ civil liberties was further compounded by prosecutorial overreach in pursuing such aggressive charges and, most disturbingly, by the suppression of exculpatory evidence by the government. The arrest also swept up two independent journalists, who then faced prosecution for supposed co-conspiracy with the protesters, and who did not have their charges dropped until after the first group of defendants went to trial. 

In the first two J20 trials, which each tried half a dozen or more co-defendants at a time, the jury either acquitted or yielded a mistrial on all charges. Prosecutors subsequently elected for a tactical retreat by dropping charges on 129 of the defendants with forthcoming court dates, and focusing their efforts on the remaining 39 defendants. The choice by prosecutors last week not to proceed with the pending cases marks the end of a tumultuous legal struggle in which law enforcement and district attorneys brazenly flouted fundamental civil liberties to crack down on First Amendment-protected dissent.

You can read the full story from The Guardian here.