First round of trials begin for 194 charged in anti-Trump inauguration day protests
20 November 2017
Opening statements are expected to be heard today in the first round of trials for the 194 protestors who face state reprisal for their participation in an alleged riot that took place on January 20 during demonstrations to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The incident which sparked the police crackdown occurred when a small group of individuals smashed a series of windows and set a limousine on fire. Prosecutors allege a group called Disrupt J20 organized the protest and carried out the vandalism, describing rioters who used “black bloc” tactics such as wearing all black and masking their faces.
Soon after the disruption, the police surrounded and “kettled” a group of hundreds of protestors in the area, eventually arresting 230 people.
A report from the Washington, D.C. Office of Police Complaints detailed indiscriminate mass arrests and the use of nonlethal weapons without proper warning. Police fired upon the crowd with chemical agents, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stinger grenades. Protesters also claim the police sexually assaulted multiple detainees.
Prosecutors initially charged 214 people with “felony rioting,” a charge which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In April, a grand jury issued additional charges. So far, 20 have plead guilty. The remaining 194 awaiting trial face as much as up to 70 years in prison.
Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff is pressuring the court to issue the maximum sentence to all 194 defendants—even ones who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. “A person can be convicted of rioting without breaking a window,” Kerkhoff claimed at a hearing in July….