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As news breaks that federal prosecutors will dismiss cases against 129 of the remaining 188 people facing felony charges from the DisruptJ20 protests that occurred on Donald Trump’s inauguration day, activists across the country are engaged in a week of events in support of the those on trial. Dozens of events planned from Oakland, California to Lansing, Michigan, to here in D.C. are taking place to raise money for the defendants’ legal funds.
In D.C., the Uptown Arts House is hosting a show this evening from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. that will feature banners, signs, posters, props, and other items activists have used in various marches throughout the year. Tomorrow night, Positive Force, an activist collective, is hosting a benefit concert at St. Stephen’s Church for the DC Legal Posse, featuring locals Gauche, Bacchae, The Messthetics, and Weird Babies.
Fifty-nine people still face charges for felony rioting on Inauguration Day. Protestors smashed several windows of businesses before police chased and corralled a large swath of people into a kettle at the Northwest corner of 12th and L streets NW. In all, 234 people were arrested and 194 were charged.
The abrupt news of the dismissals follows a December ruling in which the first six defendants in the riot case were acquitted of all charges. In the recent court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff writes that the decision to drop the case against the 129 defendants is so that the government can focus on prosecuting the 59 defendants who they say “(1) engaged in identifiable acts of destruction, violence, or other assaultive conduct; (2) participated in the planning of the violence and destruction; and/or (3) engaged in conduct that demonstrates a knowing and intentional use of the black-bloc tactic… to perpetrate, aid or abet violence and destruction.”
When the trials for the DisruptJ20 protestors began in late November, 187 of the 194 defendants faced one or more felony charges, each one carrying up to 10 years in prison. The felony charges included inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot, destruction of property, and assaulting a police officer. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that, when the trials kicked off, 20 defendants pleaded guilty to reduced charges, and the prosecutors had dropped 20 cases. It was also announced that the defendants would be tried six at a time, with 25 trials scheduled into this year. The first six defendants were acquitted in early December.