Prosecution Drops Case Against 129 Inauguration Day Protesters
Posted on January 23, 2018
According to a new piece from Al Jazeera, prosecutors in the case against protesters taking part in the Disrupt J20 demonstration, which took place in Washington, DC in January 2017, have dropped all charges against 129 defendants. Among the charges the defendants faced were felony rioting charges, which many civil liberties organizations and advocates viewed as an attempt to intimidate organizers considering exercising their First Amendment right to political demonstration. The recent dismissal of charges, and the acquittal of six defendants in the first of the Disrupt J20 trials (which CCDBR previously covered), leaves 59 individuals accused and facing felony rioting violations.
In their filing to drop charges, the prosecution cites the not guilty verdict in the first case as one rationale for abandoning their cases against the vast majority of the over 200 individuals initially charged. This admission further validates the strength of the defense’s case in the initial Disrupt J20 trial, which rested primarily on the assertion that the US legal system eschews guilt by association and that one’s mere presence at a First Amendment-sanctioned demonstration which includes select, few violent sub-elements is not a crime.
However, considerable legal peril for many of those initially charged, as well as potentially dire precedent for free speech on the whole, still remain. In particular, among the 59 who still face charges is an independent journalist closely covering the protest. Should the prosecution proceed aggressively with those who continue to face charges, a chilling environment for peaceful demonstration and free press exercise may yet take hold.
You can read the full story from Al Jazeera here.