More than 200 people were arrested protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump in January, the overwhelming majority of them having done nothing other than exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. The Trump administration tried to prosecute them anyway, claiming that they had some collective responsibility for the small amount of property damage that occurred. A group of them have now been acquitted of those outrageous charges.
A jury in a D.C. Superior Court case has acquitted a group of Inauguration Day protestors on all charges, according to multiple media reports.
Six activists who were arrested while protesting on Inauguration Day as part of the “J20,” or Jan. 20, protests were each facing five felony charges of destruction of property and two misdemeanor counts of engaging in a riot…
Prosecuting attorneys, according to The Washington Post, argued that while the six were not personally involved, their decision to march with the J20 group was “essentially providing cover” for those responsible.
“This was not a First Amendment activity,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rizwan Qureshi. “They conspired by joining in the group to do unlawful things on the streets of your city.”
That is an incredibly dangerous position. Any protest of any appreciable size has a handful of people who get out of hand, and they should be held responsible for their actions. But no one should be held responsible for someone else’s actions when they were peacefully protesting themselves. This is the same tactic Larry Klayman, the dumbest lawyer in America not named Mat Staver, tried to use against Black Lives Matter in a civil suit that was tossed out (aren’t they all?).
There are still more than 150 people involved in the protests who have identical trials coming up. We can only hope that the outcome of this trial will lead the U.S. Attorney’s office for the DC district to drop those charges, but I doubt they’ll do that. This is just an attempt to intimidate Trump’s critics and that goal is served with or without a conviction because of the cost and disruption of lives that inevitably happens due to such a trial.