That is what a jury determined on all 42 counts, including felony destruction of property and conspiracy to riot, faced by six individuals who were mass arrested during an Inauguration protest in Washington, DC.
From the very beginning of this ordeal, Defending Rights & Dissent has called for all charges to be dropped against the Inauguration protesters. The prosecutors sought to put people in prison for decades, people whom they freely conceded had not engaged in property destruction. Instead, the six defendants–including protesters, medics, and a journalist–were guilty merely of being present at a protest march the prosecution wrongly deemed a premeditated riot.
Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff told the jury during her closings that “reasonable doubt doesn’t mean very much,” but we are elated that the jury decided that civil liberties, due process, and freedom of expression still have meaning in Washington, DC.
These are only the first defendants out of nearly 200 people facing charges stemming from the anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march that took place during the Inauguration. Given the humiliating rebuke that was just handed to the government for their attempts to use guilt by association to criminalize dissent, all of remaining charges must be dropped immediately.
Additionally, we call for Assistant US AttorneyJennifer Kerkhoff to resign immediately.
There must be accountability for those who deprive people of their most fundamental liberties.
The National Lawyers Guild has issued this statement:
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.
Defendants Jennifer Armento, Oliver Harris, Britt Lawson, Michelle “Miel” Macchio, Christina Simmons, and Alexei Wood were acquitted on all eight counts of misdemeanor rioting and conspiracy to riot, and five counts of felony property destruction. That these defendants include two street medics and a journalist maintains that protest infrastructure is not a crime.
The NLG reiterates its call on prosecutors to drop all charges against the remaining 188 defendants, and urges supporters to donate to the J20 Legal Defense Fund at fundrazr.com/j20resistance. See today’s press release issued by Defend J20 Resistance here.
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.