Defend J20 Resistance
For Immediate Release: April 28, 2017
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 929-335-4713
Washington, DC – Activists arrested during the inauguration of President Trump are condemning a superseding indictment filed yesterday by US Attorney Channing D. Phillips. The superseding indictment newly charges three people with felonies and applies several additional felony charges to the more than 200 people arrested on January 20.
Charges against defendants now include felony “inciting or urging to riot,” “rioting,” “conspiracy to riot,” “destruction of property,” and misdemeanor “assault on a police officer,” but the indictment provides no new evidence to back up the charges.
“We haven’t seen a shred of new evidence to support this superseding indictment,” said Sarah Hailey, one of the defendants arrested on January 20. “The prosecutor is just using excessive charges in order to scare and coerce us into pleading guilty.”
The superseding indictment comes as Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff offered plea deals to multiple defendants in court today, seeking convictions in cases that have barely been prosecuted yet. In one rebuffed plea deal, Kerkhoff offered to downgrade a defendant’s charges to misdemeanor riot if the defendant agreed to testify against their romantic partner at trial.
“The prosecutor is using the threat of years in prison to obtain convictions before she has even bothered to make a case against anyone,” said Olivia Alsip, one of the felony defendants who was offered, but refused, a plea deal. “Many defendants, like myself, believe their charges are politically motivated and want to take their cases to trial.”
The news of additional felony charges comes as nearly half of the Inauguration Day defendants—more than one hundred people—have announced their intention to work collectively together to fight their charges. The defendants have established “Points of Unity,” which include an agreement not to “cooperate against any of our co-defendants, nor accept any plea deals that cooperate with prosecutors at the expense of other co-defendants.”
After being violently attacked on January 20 by police using chemical and projectile weapons, more than 230 people—including protesters, bystanders, medics, reporters and legal observers—were “kettled,” then arrested and charged with felonies without an opportunity to disperse or receive medical care.
By conducting arrests in the way that it did, the Metropolitan Police Department violated its own crowd control policy—Standard Operating Procedures for Handling First Amendment Activity. The policy was tightened after Interim MPD Chief Peter Newsham and the district were sued for engaging in similar abusive practices during protests at Pershing Park in 2002, resulting in a settlement of more than $10 million.
In February, the DC Mayor’s Office of Police Complaints who had “observers” on the streets that day issued a critical report, charging that police responded to protests violently and without warning. Earlier this month, the district’s Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Allen promised to launch an independent investigation into the police response on inauguration day.
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Defend J20 Resistance is a group of supporters and defendants working collectively to fight the government’s attempts to prosecute more than 230 people arrested and charged with felonies while protesting during President Trump’s inauguration. DefendJ20Resistance.org is a product of their work.