Jessie Liu, U.S. Attorney

U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu Must Immediately Drop All Charges against J20 Defendants

On January 20, 2017, tens of thousands of people converged in Washington, D.C. for the #DisruptJ20 protests to oppose the inauguration of Donald Trump. A combination of blockades, marches, and festive demonstrations shattered the spectacle of a peaceful transition of power, and made it clear around the world that people do not recognize Trump’s authority. What could have been a day signaling resignation and defeat became a moment of defiance and resistance. As such, the protests on J20 set a tone and precedent for the events that unfolded shortly after, including the notably successful, mass direct actions at airports against Trump’s Muslim ban, as well as ongoing resistance to deportations. While Trump and his alt-right foot soldiers have encountered few meaningful obstacles from liberal politicians in the halls of power, grassroots resistance has continued to prove a substantial force.

Unfortunately, however, with resistance comes repression. In addition to shooting pepper spray and concussion grenades indiscriminately at protesters, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, DC police cordoned off an entire block and mass arrested more than 230 people in an attempt to stop an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist march. On April 27, the U.S. Attorney Channing Philips issued an indictment, charging more than 200 people with eight felonies each—inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and five counts of property destruction—punishable by 75 years in prison.

With these heightened charges the state is trying to set a precedent for harsh crackdowns of disruptive protest in the future, so that Trump can proceed with his agenda unimpeded by anything but symbolic hand-wringing. This strategy corresponds with a broader wave of repression and reaction, from the arrests and grand jury investigations of Indigenous water protectors at #StandingRock to attacks against #BlackLivesMatter and black-led uprisings against police brutality.

Just as all of our struggles are connected, we understand these arrests to represent a real threat to all efforts towards true freedom, dignity, and autonomy. We stand in solidarity with J20 defendants and strongly oppose this crackdown on dissidents. We call on U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to immediately drop all charges against J20 defendants.

To: Jessie Liu, U.S. Attorney
From: [Your Name]

I'm writing to demand that the charges against the protestors who were mass arrested on Inauguration Day be dismissed.

The conduct of the DC Metropolitan Police Department was unacceptable, and more importantly, it was unlawful. They unleashed chemical agents and concussion grenades against the crowd without provocation, they used police lines to cut of an entire city block, and then indiscriminately arrested over two hundred people after holding them in the kettle for hours.

A report from the Office of Police Complaints notes that in doing so, the MPD broke multiple sections of the First Amendment Assemblies Act, in addition to several sections of their own Standard Operating Procedures. As you know, the ACLU has also filed a civil lawsuit over the MPD's actions including allegations of harsh treatment of arrestees.

These policies were put into place after Peter Newsham ordered the mass arrest of over 400 people in 2002, an arrest which was deemed illegal in a civil lawsuit that cost the District millions of dollars. Now the exact same officer has violated the policies put into place specifically because of his prior misconduct. I understand that the MPD is refusing to release documents to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund regarding Newsham's conduct on Inauguration Day, which is also required by law under the First Amendment Assemblies Act. I believe that is because the MPD know it will reveal more details about their unlawful behavior.

I believe that it is abundantly clear this mass arrest was unlawful. Consequently, these charges should be dropped. People come from all over the country to make their voices heard in DC, and police here should be held to the highest standards when it comes to the rights of protesters. Should this case continue, it could set an unacceptable precedent of drag-net arrests against protestors that violates numerous constitutional rights to assemble and demonstrate.

Thank you for your time. Please drop these charges immediately.