On the 20th of January, as Donald Trump was inaugurated, police unlawfully trapped and arrested over 230 protesters, journalists, and bystanders. Police made no attempt to distinguish who did what simply charging all arrestees with felony riot, which carries a theoretical maximum ofg ten years in prison. On the 18th of February, protesters gathered at the US Attorney’s office to demand that these charges be dropped.
Many of the unprecedented charges and police actions during the #DisruptJ20 events raise serious questions about rule of law. In 2005, the DC Council passed legislation explicitly forbidding mass arrests of protests. Police defied their own law and carried out the J20 kettle and mass arrest anyway. This sort of behavior as well as the use of police weapons never before fired at protesters suggests that when those in power are frightened by popular opposition, rule of law goes out the window and police are simply ordered to do whatever is expedient. Organizers of the Feb 18 Drop the Charges protest stated “We believe these charges are politically motivated; intended to intimidate protesters and silence dissent against the Trump administration.” Protesters stated that these extreme charges are intended as a direct attack on free speech, and the fact that two independent journalists and a freelance reporter are still facing felony charges lends much credance to this suspicion.
It is worth remembering that DC does not have its own prosecutors, relying instead on US Attorneys, who being Federal now answer to Trump.
There is a related petition demanding that these felony riot charges against three journalists still facing charges from the J20 mass arrest be dropped. Charges were dropped several days after the mass arrest against four paid, credentialed journalists after police spokemen futily tried to defend the logic behind these charges. The other three journalists are still facing major felony charges along with the protesters and the bystanders netted in the kettle.