Republican lawmakers in five states propose bills to criminalize peaceful protest

Discussion in 'News and Current Events' started by The Wrong Guy, Jan 19, 2017.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Republican Lawmakers in Five States Propose Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest

    By Spencer Woodman, The Intercept, January 19, 2017


    On Saturday, the Women’s March on Washington will kick off what opponents of the incoming administration hope will be a new era of demonstrations against the Republican agenda. But in some states, nonviolent demonstrating may soon carry increased legal risks — including punishing fines and significant prison terms — for people who participate in protests involving civil disobedience. Over the past few weeks, Republican legislators across the country have quietly introduced a number of proposals to criminalize and discourage peaceful protest.

    The proposals, which strengthen or supplement existing laws addressing the blocking or obstructing of traffic, come in response to a string of high-profile highway closures and other actions led by Black Lives Matter activists and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Republicans reasonably expect an invigorated protest movement during the Trump years.

    In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.” Republicans in Michigan introduced and then last month shelved an anti-picketing law that would increase penalties against protestors and would make it easier for businesses to sue individual protestors for their actions. And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests.

    The anti-protesting bills have alarmed civil liberties watchdogs.

    “This trend of anti-protest legislation dressed up as ‘obstruction’ bills is deeply troubling,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, who views such bills as violations of the First Amendment. “A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: chilling protest.”

    In North Dakota, the author of the bill that would permit the killing of protestors has linked his legislation directly to anti-pipeline activists’ successful protests that involved obstructing roadways. Although the bill ostensibly requires drivers to have acted “negligently” or accidentally in killing a protestor, the bill’s co-sponsor, Republican state Rep. Keith Kempenich, has said that some accidents might occur if motorists “punched the accelerator rather than the brakes,” according to the Bismarck Tribune.

    “If you stay off the roadway, this would never be an issue,” said Kempenich. “Those motorists are going about the lawful, legal exercise of their right to drive down the road.”

    Republican legislators behind the anti-protesting bill in Minnesota have also said that their effort is in response to an increasing number of highway closures by activists. In recent months, Black Lives Matter protests have made national news for shutting down major freeways in Minneapolis, most recently in July when a group of protestors blocked a main downtown thoroughfare to protest the police shooting of Philando Castile, an unarmed black man. The bill elevates such protesting to a “gross misdemeanor,” punishable by both a year in jail and a fine of $3,000.

    In addition to the highway-protesting bill, Minnesota lawmakers also proposed a separate piece of legislation that greatly increases penalties for nonviolent cases involving “obstructing the legal process.” Under the bill’s language, nonviolent obstruction of authorities would carry “imprisonment of not less than 12 months” and a fine of up to $10,000.

    Jordan S. Kushner, a Minneapolis civil rights attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter protesters, said this latter bill was “most alarming” because of its dramatic penalty enhancement and its apparent targeting of nonviolent protests.

    “The statute is very heavily abused by police to charge people with crimes in response to minor resistance to police based on good faith disagreements with what they are doing,” Kushner told The Intercept in an email. “It is frequently used in response to people who verbally challenge or try to observe/record police at protests.”

    While other anti-protesting proposals in Washington state and Iowa focus on protesters blocking transit routes, a bill that was floated in Michigan appeared to target labor unions. The legislation, which was passed by the Michigan House of Representatives before being set aside by the state Senate last month, would have enabled the state to fine individual picketers $1,000 per day of picketing and would place a $10,000 daily penalty on a union presiding over such a protest. A companion bill would have made it easier for employers to replace striking workers.

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  2. The Wrong Guy Member

    In Trump's America, 'Felony Riot' Charges Against Inauguration Protesters Signal Dangerous Wave of Repression

    More than 200 people mass arrested in Washington, D.C. facing up to 10 years in jail.

    By Sarah Lazare, Alternet, January 22, 2017


    More than 200 people who were mass-arrested at the Washington, D.C. protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump have been hit with felony riot charges that are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and quarter-million-dollar fine. Those picked up in the sweep — including legal observers and journalists — had their phones, cameras and other personal belongings confiscated as evidence, a lawyer confirmed to AlterNet.

    Demonstrators warn that the crackdown signals a new wave of repression against the protesters, whose mass mobilization was met with riot police violence, National Guard and Department of Homeland Security deployments, heavy surveillance and law enforcement snipers positioned on rooftops.

    “These charges are absolutely horrifying. They are just trying to stop any resistance to the Trump administration,” Samantha Miller, an organizer with the Disrupt J20 Collective, told AlterNet. “Many of these demonstrators were showing rage and fear of what’s coming. It’s going to take a lot more than asking nicely to create change and stop the threats from the Trump administration.”

    The vast majority of the roughly 230 people who were kettled and mass-arrested at the anti-capitalist bloc during Friday’s protests have been charged under the felony riot act, said Mark Goldstone, a National Lawyers Guild-affiliated attorney who has defended protesters in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years. Washington, D.C. authorities put this number at 217. Goldstone confirmed to AlterNet that legal observers and journalists were among those detained in the sweep, explaining that, throughout his career in Washington, D.C., he has never seen mass charges of this kind.

    Jeffrey Light, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who provided legal support to the Disrupt J20 Collective, agreed with this assessment. “I have been representing protesters for 13 years now, and I have never seen felony rioting charges in Washington, D.C. It is not one of the standard laws that they tend to use. This is unusual. It is rare to use that charge.”

    “Across the board, all phones and cameras are being held as evidence, and they are also detaining gloves and cell phone chargers as evidence,” said Light. “They are giving people their wallets back generally, but that’s it. It is extremely troubling.”

    According to a class-action lawsuit filed by Light on Friday, those picked up in the sweep and hit with felony riot charges already endured abuse at the hands of the police. “Our class action lawsuit charges that the police were rounding up everyone on the street without warning and putting them under arrest and using excessive force,” said Light. “There were a number of weapons we haven't seen Washington, D.C. police use in recent memory, flash bang grenades and tear gas. In addition to chemical irritants, they were assaulting people with batons. They were beating people.”

    Those kettled by police were forced to wait for hours in the street and on school buses, many of them going untreated for injuries, say supporters. “They are trying to set a tone to chill further demos of this nature, and I don’t think it’s going to work,” Bob Hayes, a Washington, D.C. resident who is helping coordinate legal support, told AlterNet. “They are trying to put pressure on individuals to collaborate with the investigations.”


    Washington, D.C. residents say that the state violence on display this weekend extends far beyond the individuals hit with felony riot charges.

    “A mother carrying her toddler was pepper sprayed in the face,” said Miller. “An elder from Standing Rock was sprayed in her face. A woman with crutches tried to intervene, and she was sprayed."

    Full article:
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  3. Bump

    Please keep us updated on this/these front(s), OP and anyone else who cares (so OP doesn't have to do all the work.)
  4. Disambiguation Global Moderator

    [quote]Over the weekend, readers alerted me to two additional anti-protesting bills, both introduced by Republicans, that are pending in Virginia and Colorado. This brings the number of states that have in recent weeks floated such proposals to at least eight.
    In Colorado, Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has introduced a bill that would greatly increase penalties for environmental protesters. Under the proposed law, obstructing or tampering with oil and gas equipment would be reclassified from a misdemeanor to a “class 6” felony, a category of crime that reportedly can be punished by up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $100,000.
    A state with a fierce debate over oil and gas extraction, Colorado has seen a number of demonstrations in recent years against fossil fuel industries, and a town in the state recently floated a proposal to support the civil disobedience actions against environmentally harmful drilling methods. (Republican sponsors of North Dakota’s current bill cited activists’ successful actions against the Dakota Access Pipeline as a primary motivation for their current attempt to crack down on protest.)[/quote]
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  5. Quentinanon Member

    Corporate fascism is on a rampage in the U.S. I hope those affected will declare war with a long term effective backlash.
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  6. The Wrong Guy Member

    Numerous states considering anti-protest bills | CNN


    Spencer DesAuteles was standing in a crosswalk at a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban in January when he and two other people were hit by a car. The Tennessee resident, who was working as a volunteer to keep protestors safe from traffic, said he had the legal right of way when a driver rolled through the intersection.

    "I stopped in front of this car," DesAuteles recounted. "We made eye contact. The driver stopped and then just decided to slowly drive through me. There was nowhere else to go. It was get out of the way or get under the wheels of the car. So we got driven on the hood of this car for some distance."

    No one was injured in the incident, and the Metro Nashville Police Department concluded there were misunderstandings on both sides and therefore no reasons to pursue charges. But under a bill in the state legislature, drivers who do injure protesters blocking traffic would be exempt from civil liability so long as they were "exercising due care."

    "The sponsor was very clear that the wording of the bill is not to say that it's OK to go and hit people with your car," DesAuteles said. "But that's the way that people are reading it. The only way it's being read by the vast majority of people is: 'I can hurt protesters and get away with it.'"

    Republican state Rep. Matthew Hill, the bill's sponsor, did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation, which failed to move out of a House subcommittee, although a companion bill is pending before a Senate subcommittee. But the measure is just one of several being considered across the country as state lawmakers react to protests against President Donald Trump and his policies, instances of police brutality, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and other issues that could continue to draw national attention.

    So far, lawmakers in at least 18 states have proposed legislation that would make it harder to protest, create harsher penalties for protestors who are arrested, and, in two states, remove liability from drivers who accidentally injure protesters on roadways.

    Proponents of the bills say they are commonsense measures to ensure public safety after the high-profile protests against the Dakota Access pipeline near Cannonball, North Dakota, and against the police shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, area.

    But the trend is alarming to civil rights groups and others who say the measures would trample the public's First Amendment rights.

    "Some of these bills are so egregious that you don't need a law degree to conclude they're unconstitutional," said Lee Rowland, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, who has monitored state legislation for more than a decade.

    The United Nations has also taken note, releasing a report by the special rapporteur identifying anti-protest bills in 16 states, which the report called "a worrying trend."

    "We are concerned that the above-mentioned bills are incompatible with international human rights law and would unduly restrict the possibility for individuals to freely exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly," it said. "If adopted, the pending bills could have a domino effect on other states, leading to a general crackdown on protests in the United States."

    Under one bill in Missouri, wearing a mask or disguise while protesting would be a crime, while under another, in Oklahoma, trespassing on property containing critical infrastructure could land a perpetrator a fine of at least $1,000 and six months in jail, with intent to vandalize or actually damaging the structure bringing much stiffer penalties of a year in prison and at least a $10,000 fine or up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine, respectively.

    Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Florida have pushed bills to boost penalties for blocking roads and highways or trespassing, with the Florida bill also exempting drivers from liability for unintentionally injuring or even killing protestors who do so.

    Last month, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jimmy Matlock that would make it a misdemeanor to obstruct streets and highways in a way that restricts emergency vehicle access, quadrupling the fine to $200; Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill earlier this month.

    In Minnesota, legislators are considering two highway-obstruction bills and a measure that would allow protestors to be sued for the cost of policing their protests.

    Republican state Rep. Nick Zerwas, who had a hand in all three bills, said he coauthored one of them after hearing how his constituents were affected when protesters shut down freeways, a tactic he called "the go-to protest move."

    "When you shut down a freeway or you close an airport, it has a real impact and it hurts real people," Zerwas said.

    In the last two years, protesters have shut down Interstate 94 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area after the police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile and also after Trump's election victory.

    "If you stand in the middle of a freeway and try to block a freeway, you deserve to go to jail," Zerwas said. "It's really that cut and dry."

    The measures would make obstructing highways, airport entrances or transit vehicles a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a $3,000 fine for non-violent offenders or by up to three years in prison or a $5,000 fine for violent offenders.

    "The reality is that you have no First Amendment right to free speech or assembly on the center lane on the freeway or the entrance to an international airport or the middle of a train track," Zerwas said. "It's already against the law to be there; all we're doing is increasing the penalty. We are not taking a single protest or free speech activity that is currently legal and making it illegal by passing these bills."

    The bills are part a public safety package of legislation, Zerwas said, adding he is "very hopeful" Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would ultimately sign the legislation. The third bill, to allow protesters to be sued for the cost of policing, is not expected to pass.

    Meanwhile, in late March, the governor of South Dakota signed a bill that caps the number of people allowed to gather on public lands at 20.

    Matt Konenkamp, a policy adviser to South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, told CNN the law is meant to deal any protests over the planned construction of the section of the Keystone XL pipeline that will run through South Dakota.

    "It patches a hole in our existing law relative to emergency situations," Konenkamp said. "If we're forced to declared an emergency in response to a public safety need that's triggered by people that are gathering for peaceful protests, to object to the TransCanada pipeline, we will have this hole patched in our existing law."

    The law says if it is necessary to "preserve the undisturbed use of the land" or if "the land may be damaged," the state commissioner of school and public lands can restrict gatherings at the request of the governor and the sheriff who has jurisdiction. It also makes obstructing roadways a misdemeanor crime.

    "We support people's right to protest and certainly, in this instance, the Native Americans' right to peacefully and prayerfully gather and note their objections with," Konenkamp said, referring to Keystone XL protests. "Second, I would say that there are time and place restrictions on first amendment rights."

    The Arizona Senate also passed legislation targeting protest groups. The bill, which stalled in the state House and is not expected to pass, would allow law enforcement officials to go after organizers of any protest that turns violent, even if the violence was caused by a single attendee. The measure would accomplish this by making rioting a crime that can be prosecuted under the state's racketeering laws and by expanding the definition of rioting to include an action that "disturbs the public peace or results in damage to the property of another person."

    Opponents of the bill say it would be a clear violation of due-process rights and the presumption of innocence.

    "The fact that some other human makes a decision to violate the law does not make you a criminal, and the problem with that law is that it views every protestor with criminal suspicion," said the ACLU's Rowland. "So while rioting is not protected, the problem with that bill is it took every protester and rounded them up to a rioter effectively if one person makes the choice to break the law."

    ACLU affiliates are working with community partners to oppose the bills in all 18 states, Rowland said, adding that the National Lawyers Guild and Amnesty International are also engaged in the process.

    "These bills aren't just unconstitutional," Rowland said. "They're also a betrayal of American values."

    Source, and video:
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  7. Quentinanon Member

    The Republican Party in the U.S. is devolving into what the Nazi Party was in 1930's Germany.
    And their political cult leader is Donald Trump rather than Adolf Hitler.
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  8. Do you mean Women back in the Kitchen Splurging out Arian Babies ?

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  9. Quentinanon Member

  10. The Wrong Guy Member

    This thread seemed to be the best place to share this article, which is somewhat related:

    Sessions greenlights police to seize cash, property from people suspected of crimes but not charged

    By Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post


    The Justice Department announced a new federal policy Wednesday to help state and local police take cash and property from people suspected of a crime, even without a criminal charge, reversing an Obama administration rule prompted by past abuse by police.

    Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said the Justice Department will include more safeguards to prevent the kind of problems that have been documented in the past. Police departments will be required to provide details to the Justice Department about probable cause for seizures, and federal officials will have to more quickly inform property owners about their rights and the status of the seizures.

    “The goal here is to empower our police and prosecutors with this important tool that can be used to combat crime, particularly drug abuse,” Rosenstein said at a news briefing. “This is going to enable us to work with local police and our prosecutors to make sure that when assets are lawfully seized that they’re not returned to criminals when there’s a valid basis for them to be forfeited.”

    Two years ago, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. barred state and local police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without criminal charges or warrants. Since 2008, thousands of police agencies had made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program, which allowed local and state police to make seizures and then share the proceeds with federal agencies.

    A Washington Post investigation in 2014 found that state and local police had seized almost $2.5 billion from motorists and others without search warrants or indictments since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Post series revealed that police routinely stopped drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to searches without warrants and seized large amounts of cash when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

    Police then spent the proceeds from the seizure with little oversight, according to the Post investigation. In some cases, the police bought luxury cars, high-powered weapons and armored cars.

    “You’re never going to eliminate allegations of abuses,” Rosenstein said, “never going to eliminate mistakes 100 percent. But I think this new policy is going to position us very well to make sure there are very few credible allegations of abuse, and where there are we’re going to make it a priority to follow up.”

    The new policy from Attorney General Jeff Sessions authorizes federal “adoption” of assets seized by state and local police when the conduct that led to the seizures violates federal law. Rosenstein said that the department is adding safeguards to ensure that police have sufficient evidence of criminal activity when property is seized. Property owners will receive notice of their rights within 45 days, which is twice as quickly as required by current law. Law enforcement agencies will be required to provide officers with more training on asset forfeiture laws, he said.

    State and local law enforcement officials supported the change, but Democratic and Republican lawmakers were skeptical.

    Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called Sessions’s policy “troubling” and said it would “expand a loophole that’s become a central point of contention nationwide.”

    “Criminals shouldn’t be able to keep the proceeds of their crime, but innocent Americans shouldn’t lose their right to due process, or their private property rights, in order to make that happen,” Issa said in a statement.

    Holder tweeted that Sessions’s policy was “another extremist action” and said the Obama administration policy was “a reform that was supported by conservatives and progressives, Republicans and Democrats.”

    Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the action “outrageous.”

    “We are talking about people who have not been convicted of a crime and are often not given a day in court to reclaim their possessions,” Bennett said. “Civil asset forfeiture is tantamount to policing for profit, generating millions of dollars annually that the agencies get to keep.”

    At a meeting with county sheriffs on Feb. 7, President Trump made clear to law enforcement officials that he is a strong supporter of the civil asset forfeiture program and told the Justice Department to rescind the Obama administration restrictions.

    On Wednesday, Sessions defended the reversal at a meeting with representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and other law enforcement officials who back the new policy.

    “Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels,” Sessions said.

    Earlier this week, Sessions told the National District Attorneys Association that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.”

    But the ACLU’s Bennett said, “The problem is that we are not talking about criminals.”

    “We are talking about Americans who have had their homes, cars, money and other property taken through civil forfeiture, which requires only mere suspicion that the property is connected to a crime,” she said.

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  11. Quentinanon Member

    Leave it to the Republican Party to bring in the most extreme ring-wingers, fascists, and paranoid nutbags to set U.S. government policies.
  12. The Wrong Guy Member

    The First Felony Trial Of Trump Inauguration Protesters Is About To Go To A Jury | HuffPost

    A judge dismissed just one of the felony charges against six defendants on Wednesday, leaving them exposed to potential lengthy prison sentences.


    A judge overseeing the jury trial of six individuals facing felony charges for non-violent conduct during a protest of President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration acquitted all six of a single felony count of inciting a riot on Wednesday. But D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz declined to issue a judgement of acquittal on any of the other seven charges, instead ruling that a jury will be able to hear the seven remaining charges, including five felonies.

    Out of the presence of the jury, Judge Lynn Leibovitz issued a judgement of acquittal as to the inciting charge on Wednesday morning, the day after the prosecution and all six defense teams rested their cases. Leibovitz found that no reasonable jury could find that any of the defendants intended to urge a riot, stating that she believed the inciter had to be someone who was deliberately causing others to act.

    The bad news for defendants came in the afternoon. Judge Leibovitz declined to issue a judgement of acquittal for any of the remaining charges, including two misdemeanor charges for engaging in a riot and conspiracy to riot, and five felony counts of property destruction, which the defendants would be held liable for if found to have engaged in the rioting conspiracy.

    The prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, has conceded that none of the voluminous evidence in this case indicates that any of these six defendants engaged in any property destruction or violence on Jan. 20. The six individuals currently on trial were among more than 200 individuals arrested en masse that day by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department after individuals within a large group of mostly black-clad demonstrators smashed windows in downtown D.C. ahead of Trump’s swearing-in. Police conduct that day has come under scrutiny, and the chief detective in the case is a police union official who had tweeted disparagingly about activists.

    The trial, which opened on Nov. 20, is being prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. In D.C., the types of crimes that would typically be prosecuted by local prosecutors are instead prosecuted by federal prosecutors who take their cases before D.C. Superior Court judges who are appointed by U.S. presidents.

    Kerkhoff argued on Wednesday that Alexei Wood, a photographer who has been charged in the case, was giving “energy” and “encouragement” to those who were destroying property. “This is more than just tacit approval,” Kerkhoff said of comments and expressions that Wood made during a livestream of the event. “This is very expressive, active encouragement.”

    Kerkhoff said she was focused on his conduct, not “whether he believes he was a journalist or not,” and argued that the presence of cameras can “influence ... conduct.” She said Wood was almost giving “PR” ― meaning public relations ― by broadcasting a Facebook livestream that was only being watched by two views at one point.

    Judge Leibovitz heard lawyers for each defendant argue why their case should be tossed before it got to the jury. Leibovitz apparently bought into the theory that “street medics” could be aiding and abetting a riot if they “remained there to assist” any rioters. At one point, Leibovitz compared street medics to a “getaway driver” who could still be part of the conspiracy, even if the robbers didn’t use the getaway driver’s service and instead, for example, took a bus.

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    Trump Protesters Facing Felonies Say U.S. Wants To Criminalize The First Amendment | HuffPost

    The U.S. government told a D.C. jury that six people — including a photographer and two medics — “agreed to destroy your city.”

    Medics, Observers & a Journalist Face 50 Years in Prison in First Trial of J20 Inauguration Protests | Democracy Now!


    Final arguments are underway today in Washington, D.C., in a case that could shape the future of free speech and the right to protest in the United States: the first trial of the nearly 200 people arrested during President Donald Trump’s inauguration. As demonstrators, journalists and observers gathered in Northwest D.C. after the inauguration on January 20, some separated from the group and vandalized nearby businesses and vehicles. Police officers then swept hundreds of people in the vicinity into a blockaded corner in a process known as “kettling,” where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area.

    The first so-called J20 trial could go to a jury as early as today, and involves six people, including one journalist, Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist. The defendants face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including multiple counts of destruction of property. Evidence against the defendants has been scant. We get an update from Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild. He’s been in court throughout the first J20 trial.

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    Jury deliberation begins for first J20 defendants | Al Jazeera


    The trial of six people facing more than 50 years in prison over felony charges related to January 20 protests against the inauguration of US President Donald Trump neared its conclusion on Friday as the jury began its deliberations.

    Nearly 200 people were charged with various felonies and misdemeanours related to destruction of property - mostly windows of businesses - after being arrested during a protest in Washington, DC on inauguration day.

    The charges stem from the January 20 demonstration against the inauguration of Trump, organised by an umbrella group, named Disrupt J20, which included anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and other activists and individuals.

    The trial has been criticised as a criminalisation of free speech by rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

    One of the accused in the first trial is Alexei Wood, a journalist whose live video streams show he did not participate in destruction of property.

    He was arrested, along with more than 230 other people, including observers, bystanders, activists and medics.

    Some have pleaded out and others have had their charges dropped, but more than 190 people still face felony and misdemeanour charges.

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    Judge Tells Jury: Informing Public May Be Criminal Conspiracy | FAIR

    Reporting the news can be punished as criminal conspiracy, federal Judge Lynn Leibovitz told jurors at the so-called J20 trial in Washington, DC, where journalists and protesters alike are being prosecuted for property damage that they didn’t commit during the Donald Trump inauguration.

    Twitter updates:

    Alexei Wood

    Unicorn Riot
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  13. The Wrong Guy Member

    Motion Alleges Lead Detective in J20 Case Gave False Testimony to Grand Jury

    By Baynard Woods, The Real News


    A motion filed in D.C. Superior Court last week claims that the lead detective in the case against 193 people arrested during protests of President Trump’s inauguration gave false testimony before a grand jury to secure charges against two of those people.

    The motion claims that Greggory Pemberton, a detective with the Metropolitan Police Department and the treasurer of the Fraternal Order of Police union in D.C., told the grand jury that everyone who was “kettled” and arrested en masse on Jan. 20 “participated in the entire march,” including Jada Young and Sasha Hill, both of whom are scheduled to stand trial next month on three misdemeanor charges. But, the motion argues, this isn’t true—and so any charges brought by the grand jury on the basis of this testimony should be dismissed.

    “It really undercuts the government’s whole theory of what people were doing there and caught up in the kettle,” said Scott Michelman, of the ACLU, which is pursuing a civil case against MPD based on the actions of individual officers and command that day.

    More than 200 people were arrested by MPD officers during protests surrounding Trump’s inauguration in January. The government claims that, under the federal Riot Act, all of those people are responsible for several broken windows because by wearing black and being in the area they were part of a conspiracy to riot.

    Michelman says that the motion shows that police and prosecutors “are guilty of overreach in terms of their willingness to ignore or not learn about the presence of individuals who showed up at the end. And the fact that people were coming and going throughout the march. All of which suggests they just wanted to round up a group of people and they didn't care who they were or what they had done.”

    The motion contains portions of grand jury testimony obtained by Young and Hill’s lawyers after a recent proffer that reduced their charges acknowledged that the two women had not been present for many of the crimes with which they were charged. “Contrary to the specific allegations of the indictment, neither Ms. Young nor Ms. Hill traveled with the march (which the indictment alleges was dominated by black bloc) for 16 blocks over a course of 33 minutes. Moreover, they did not have multiple opportunities to leave the march, including two specifically alleged by the indictment,” Kristen Robinson wrote in an earlier motion seeking access to the testimony.

    “The grand jury indicted Ms. Young and Ms. Hill on all of the charges in the incident, without differentiating them from other participants in the march, based on the false testimony of Detective Pemberton,” the motion reads. Pemberton, the motion alleges, “led the grand jury to believe that anyone arrested in the kettle had participated in the entire march.”

    “He did so even though by the time his testimony was complete on April 21, 2017, he had reviewed hundreds of hours of videotape and had the ability to describe Ms. Young’s and Ms. Hill’s very limited participation in the march to the grand jury and to differentiate it from everyone who participated in the march from beginning. Instead, he provided false testimony about their participation, whereupon the grand jury indicted them on all of the counts,” the motion reads.

    The testimony, the motion argues, has been acknowledged as false by the government itself given that it has since decided “to only try them on three misdemeanor counts” rather than the eight charges brought against all of the defendants.

    This case has far-reaching implications for the First Amendment and the ability for Americans to protest in the nation’s capital, where federal prosecutors who answer to the Department of Justice try even minor cases.

    If Judge Lynn Leibovitz rules that Pemberton’s testimony to the grand jury in the cases of Hill and Young was false, the cases against dozens of other people caught up in the mass arrest could be dismissed. If the defendants in the case are found guilty, it could quell the ability to organize protests for fear that an entire group will be held accountable for the actions of a single individual.

    Arguments in the trial of the first six defendants concluded last week and the jury is deliberating. In that trial, Pemberton’s own criminal history (DUI), troubles with internal affairs (“conduct unbecoming of an officer”) and social media posts that may show a bias (he claimed they were intentionally inflammatory) became an issue. He has spent the entire year working solely on this case at a salary of over $78,000. If a judge rules that he provided false testimony to the grand jury, it could have far-reaching results that go way beyond the charges that Hill and Young are facing.

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  14. The Wrong Guy Member

    Alexei Wood‏ @LexShoots 6 hours ago
    #j20 FULL ACQUITTALS!!!!!! All 42 charges for the first of the #J20Trials NOT GUILTY!

    Journalist Charged With Rioting at Inauguration Day Protest Goes Free | The New York Times


    Alexei Wood, a journalist who was arrested while covering a protest of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, was found not guilty at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Thursday of all seven counts against him, including conspiracy to riot and several counts of destruction of property. Mr. Wood had originally faced up to 61 years in prison.

    His five fellow defendants — Michelle Macchio, Jennifer Armento, Christina Simmons, Oliver Harris and Brittne Lawson — were also found not guilty of all charges after a nearly four-week trial.

    “Alexei was overwhelmed in court and doubled over crying,” Brett E. Cohen, Mr. Wood’s lawyer, said in an interview soon after the decision came in. “In these times of press persecution, I feel this is an important victory.”

    Prosecutors said the six defendants were among a group that cut a violent swath through 16 blocks of the city, smashing windows of businesses, tossing newspaper boxes into the street and damaging a car. Authorities tallied the damages at more than $100,000. The lawyers for the defendants had countered that their clients and most others in the group of about 500 were peacefully protesting, with only a handful becoming violent.

    Mr. Wood, 37, a freelance photographer and videographer based in San Antonio, was one of over 200 people arrested at the protest, which was organized by an activist group called Disrupt J20. Among those arrested were nine journalists. The government has dropped the charges against seven of those people. Mr. Wood and Aaron Cantú, a staff reporter at The Santa Fe Reporter in New Mexico who was working as a freelancer in January, were the only two journalists who faced charges. Mr. Cantú’s trial is scheduled for October 2018.

    Mr. Wood had primarily worked as a commercial photographer but had been trying to build his portfolio as a photojournalist when he went to cover the J20 protest.

    Leading up to Inauguration Day, Mr. Wood sent emails to editors in San Antonio, including one to an editor at Rivard Report, a local news website. One email read, “Just checking in. Got any assignments you want to throw at me?” In another, Mr. Wood said he was interested in focusing on “street friction, protest and support and police.”

    Mr. Wood live-streamed the event on Facebook, which ended up being a prime piece of evidence in the case — both for the prosecution and his defense.

    The Facebook video showed Mr. Wood documenting the protest as it turned violent, and into what the government classified as a riot. Mr. Wood can be seen taking photographs and is heard letting out cries of “Whoo!” as he documents protesters vandalizing property. He also identifies himself as a journalist and flashes a press pass.

    In their closing argument, Jennifer Kerkhoff and Rizwan Qureshi, the assistant United States attorneys, said that by attending the riot and wearing black, Mr. Wood and his fellow defendants were intent on destruction. Mr. Qureshi told the jury that Mr. Wood and the five others who stood trial “agreed to destroy your city, and now they’re hiding behind the First Amendment.”

    After the verdict was announced, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Columbia released a statement that said, in part, “We appreciate the jury’s close examination of the individual conduct and intent of each defendant during this trial and respect its verdict.”

    During the trial Mr. Cohen asserted that the government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Wood intended to recruit demonstrators with his live-stream. The video, which now has more than 4,300 views on Mr. Wood’s Facebook page, did not reach many people when it was live. At points during the broadcast Mr. Wood said that only one or two people were tuned in.

    “What we found most troubling was that the prosecutors argued the fact that Alexei filming meant he was supporting it and made him more complicit,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North America program coordinator for Committee to Protect Journalists. “I think those arguments didn’t hold up and the jury very clearly saw through them.”

    Mr. Wood is one of 32 journalists who were arrested in 2017, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

    “We’re happy that this ordeal is finally over for Alexei Wood,” Ms. Ellerbeck said. “The fact that this went to trial in the first place, where there was clearly nothing there, was already problematic.”

  15. The Wrong Guy Member

    Prosecutors Withheld Evidence That Could Exonerate J20 Inauguration Protesters, Judge Rules

    By Sam Adler-Bell, The Intercept


    Chief Judge Robert E. Morin of the D.C. Superior Court found on Wednesday that federal prosecutors suppressed potentially exculpatory evidence against six Inauguration Day protesters. In a motion filed late last night, attorneys for the defendants accused the government of withholding evidence that could have exonerated their clients — a serious violation of pretrial discovery rules. Attorneys allege that the state withheld evidence by editing a video of a protest planning meeting. Defense attorneys called on the court to sanction Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff for “blatant hiding of evidence” and requested that the indictment against their clients be dismissed.

    At pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon, Morin agreed that the prosecution had violated the “Brady rule,” which governs the state’s pretrial obligations to disclose exculpatory evidence, but declined to rule on the defense’s motions to dismiss the indictment or suppress the evidence. Morin will rule on those sanctions next week.

    “The government has abused its power by hiding discovery from all defendants,” the attorneys, led by Andrew O. Clarke and Cary Clennon, wrote in the motion, “purposefully choosing not to disclose Brady information, and calling into question the integrity of all of its third-party video evidence and proffers in open court.”

    J20 supporters cheered Morin’s finding, but pushed for serious sanctions. “We hope that the court further recognizes that these violations are characteristic of the U.S. Attorney’s approach to this case from day one and their shameless attempts to criminalize standard acts of organizing and protest,” said Sam Menefee-Libey of D.C. Legal Posse, which is coordinating support for the defendants. “We hope that other aspects of the prosecution’s strategy, including use of right-wing ultranationalist sources and many repressive tactics drawn from the post-9/11 security state, are also shut down by the court.”

    The trial for the latest tranche of J20 defendants — Matthew Hessler, Christopher Litchfield, Daniel Meltzer, Dylan Petrohilos, Clay Retherford, and Caroline Unger — is slated to begin June 4. They are accused of conspiring to commit acts of violence during Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. A key piece of evidence in the state’s case against them, as well as other protesters, is a video of a January 8, 2017, meeting of “Disrupt J20,” the umbrella group under which left-wing activists organized the protests.

    The video of the planning meeting was provided to investigators by Project Veritas, a controversial far-right media group known for “sting” operations against its political opponents and the publication of selectively edited videos. In the J20 video, organizers can be heard discussing plans for blockades and other civil disobedience. At one point, a speaker promises to make the inauguration a “giant clusterfuck.” At no point do they explicitly endorse property destruction.

    Defense lawyers say the government edited the Project Veritas video to exclude evidence favorable to their clients.

    “Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff has repeatedly shown contempt for the legal process in her zeal to convict political activists,” said Menefee-Libey. “Federal prosecutors are prepared to hide evidence, malign political organizing, and spend millions of taxpayer dollars in an attempt to put anti-Trump protesters behind bars for decades.” (A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment for this story.)

    The J20 prosecution has been ongoing for well over a year. Thus far, prosecutors have had little success in their effort to collectively criminalize protest participants. In December 2017, a jury acquitted the first six defendants to face trial. Charges against an addition 129 were dropped in January 2018. A total of 59 defendants still face felony prosecution.

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  16. DeathHamster Member

    I wouldn't trust any of the tape.
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  17. The Wrong Guy Member

    Trump suggests protesting should be illegal

    By Felicia Sonmez, The Washington Post, September 4, 2018


    President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

    Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

    “I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that,” Trump said. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

    He added: “In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.”

    More than 70 people were arrested after they repeatedly heckled Kavanaugh and senators at Tuesday’s hearing.

    Trump has bristled at dissent in the past, including several instances in which he has suggested demonstrators should lose their jobs or be met with violence for speaking out.

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  18. DeathHamster Member

    Daily Caller is Tucker Carlson's site.
  19. The Wrong Guy Member

    The Trump administration wants to tax protests. What happened to free speech?

    By Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Carl Messineo, The Washington Post, September 11, 2018


    For the first time, the U.S. government wants demonstrators to pay to use our parks, sidewalks and streets to engage in free speech in the nation’s capital. This should be called for what it is: a protest tax.

    This is a bold effort by the Trump administration to burden and restrict access to public spaces for First Amendment activities in Washington. If enacted, it would fundamentally alter participatory democracy in America.

    Last month, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the administration’s radical, anti-democratic rewriting of regulations governing free speech and demonstrations on public lands under federal jurisdiction in Washington. Under the proposal, which is open to public comment, the National Park Service (NPS) will charge protesters “event management” costs. This would include the cost of barricades and fencing erected at the discretion of police, the salaries of personnel deployed to monitor the protest, trash removal and sanitation charges, permit application charges and costs assessed on “harm to turf” — the effects of engaging in free speech on grass, as if our public green spaces are for ornamental viewing.

    And it goes beyond just the Mall. Want to protest in front of the Trump hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue? Under this proposal, you’ll have to take out your checkbook, because the NPS maintains control over the broad sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue. In addition to the upfront costs to even request a permit, you may be billed for the cost of barricades erected around the hotel — fencing you didn’t ask for but that the hotel wants.

    Such a “pay to protest” plan will likely be challenged in court. The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances cannot be burdened by such charges. And discretionary fees or measures that can serve as a proxy for content-based discrimination are unconstitutional.

    This is just one element of a larger initiative to close off public space to silence dissent by both financial and physical restriction. The NPS has, at the same time, quietly sneaked into its new regulatory proposal a plan to essentially close the iconic White House sidewalk to protest, leaving only five feet for a narrow pedestrian walkway.

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  20. The Wrong Guy Member

    NYPD Denied Spy-Like Secrecy in Protest Case | Courthouse News Service


    Refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records may work for the CIA, but a judge refused Monday to let New York City use the tactic to keep protesters in the dark about police surveillance.

    The NYPD used the non-answer — known in Freedom of Information Act cases as a Glomar response — when activists from a Black Lives Matter offshoot requested records on police monitoring of their social media during the demonstration known as Millions March NYC.

    Scoffing at the terror-fighting justifications asserted in the case by the NYPD, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth found the Glomar response impermissible Monday.

    “The petitioners here are protestors, engaging in First Amendment protected activity,” Bluth wrote. “The only connection between protestors and terrorists appears to be that both groups use cell phones. But terrorists and protestors and, for that matter, New York City residents use cell phones and computers and social media and a variety of other technologies. A Glomar response cannot be used in every instance in which a terrorist might use the same technology as a protestor or a New York City resident.”

    Using an abbreviation for New York’s Freedom of Information Law, Bluth said it would turn FOIL on its head to find otherwise.

    “FOIL is not about blind trust — it is about holding government officials accountable,” the 14-page opinion states. “That principle is fundamental to a democratic society and cannot be cast aside so easily.”

    New York Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Bobby Hodgson celebrated the ruling.

    “Today the court confirmed that the NYPD cannot vastly expand the scope of the Glomar response to deny the public access to basic information regarding the tactics and technologies used by police to monitor First Amendment-protected political activity,” Hodgson said in a statement. “We are pleased that the court agreed that allowing the police to cite very general national security concerns in this case ‒ to avoid transparency and accountability over the surveillance of protesters ‒ would undermine the very purpose of the Freedom of Information Law.”

    The NYPD also failed to sway the court Monday that the prices and features of its surveillance technology should be treated as trade secrets.

    “If the prices and the product features are trade secrets, then every single contract a governmental agency enters into would be exempt from FOIL,” Bluth wrote. “Every contract contains information about pricing and, where a product is purchased, the contract presumably also has details about the product.”

    Bluth was critical a well of an assertion by Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence John Miller that the NYPD could be trusted to not have interfered with protester cellphones, since such interference would violate the law.

    “Revealing that the NYPD follows the law would not provide aid or comfort to terrorists,” Bluth wrote. “Of course, if respondent is using technology on protestors and, by its own account, violating the law, then it cannot hide exposure of that fact through a Glomar response.”

    Reached for comment this afternoon, Sergeant Jessica McRorie said the NYPD is “reviewing the decision and will discuss our options with the Law Department.”

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