After the not guilty verdicts in the Chicago Conspiracy trial in 1969, one of the jurors was interviewed– an older white woman who admitted she voted for Nixon. Explaining her not guilty verdict, she said simply that this was the first time she was afraid of her government.
In that bell weather case for the Nixon fascist regime, so-called leaders of the protest outside the Democratic Natonal Conventon were put on trial for “conspiracy,” facing the rest of their lives in prison. Defendants included Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Ruben of the yippies, Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers, and anti-war pacifists.
The fascists’ intent was for those trials and their anticipated outcome to spread a climate of fear to silence protest.
The current sociopath in the White House makes Nixon look like Bernie Sanders, and it’s no coincidence that from its inception the Trump machine has pushed an ambitious and oppressive agenda against free speech and political dissent. On the day that this sociopath was sworn in, his Nazis arrested 230 protesters in Washington, DC, intendng to make “DC” stand for “Dissent Control,” charging protesters with felony conspiracy to riot.
On inauguration day, hundreds marched– peacefully, unfortunately –through DC, until they reached the corner of L and 12th Street, where the fascists had set up a blockade. Fascists then followed the marchers in, creating what’s called a “kettle.” Hundreds, including journalists and legal observers, were essentially held hostage. The kettle lasted over 8 hours as folks had to go without food, water, medical help, or even toilets. People were forced to urinate in water bottles. A group of about a hundred managed to break out of the blockade and escape.
All 230 who remained were arrested, held for 36 hours because of a handful of actions by a handful of people. By the official statistics, six windows were broken and six cops were injured. Even journalists were charged, though some charges were later dropped.
Just an observation, but if six cops were injured, that means hundreds were not. By my thinking, those fascist bastards shouldn’t be arresting protesters; they should be buying them dinner and gift cards and thanking the protesters for sparing their worthless pig lives. But what do I know?
The media has portrayed that the hundreds of kettled hostages were also responsible for burning a limousine– but that’s simply not true. The limo was burned hours after the kettle began, blocks away.
Over 200 people faced 70 years in prison a piece on conspiracy charges for a few isolated incidents in a large crowd. So, the real aim of the fascist regime in prosecuting them is to essentially criminalize being in close proximity to those who commit a potentially criminal act. The aim is to spread a climate of fear that prevents others from ever protesting or dissenting, for fear of criminal charges for everyone if even one person smashes a window that perhaps has it coming.
In this case, there’s the threat of something like a total of 16,000 years in prison for 12 alleged criminal acts– six broken windows and six injured cops. That comes out to more than 1300 years for each of the twelve acts, distributed among more than 200 people… who just happened to be close by.
This is almost comparable to the historic Chicago conspiracy trial, except in the current witch hunt, the fascists haven’t just charged the so-called “leaders,” but have charged everyone present. This would be comparable if the thousands of college kids who attended the 1968 DNC protests had all been charged and tried for conspiracy charges.
The current fascist regime’s prosecution strategy is to try a handful of protesters at a time, in groups of six to eight. The idea is for them to use trial after trial to accumulate information they can use in the next trial and the next, a process of evolving evidence.
One protester, Dane Powell, took a non-cooperating plea back in April, and served a four-month prison term. Dane is an army vet who saw a young woman holding her infant son, blinded by the chemical weapons deployed by the fascists who had kettled everyone. Dane carried the child and led the young woman to safety. Police claim that Dane also found the time to throw bricks and assault cops. Why they gave him prison time rather than making a comic book about this guy, I’ll never know.
Since then, in early December, lawyers filed motions to dismiss charges because the lead detective in the case, Greggory Pemberton, lied at the grand jury. Pemberton, by the way, is also the treasurer for the fraternal order of police for DC, which means he’s probably bonded and his home address, then, is public information somewhere. Not suggesting that anyone should post that online or anything.
Not suggesting that at all.
After this lead detective got caught lying and fabricating a case, the first group of defendants went on trial. On December 21, they were all found not guilty on all charges. Not guilty.
Now, consider, in the American injustice system, a fraction of one percent of criminal defendants get found not guilty. So, in a normal situation, those defendants in the first round of conspiracy trials would likely represent not guilty verdicts for an entire year, nationwide. Not trying to be too optimistic here, but I think this might just signal that the fascists’ criminalization-of-free-speech agenda might just be unraveling. All the more reason for all of us to do everything we can to support the remaining criminal defendants and to expose this corrupt regime’s true, repressive aims.
This is one of those rare defensive struggles that needs and deserves our collective commitment because, in the final analysis, our own future action needs all of those charged protesters to go free. This is one of those battles that will stand out when our kids or grandkids look back, from a world strewn with smoldering cop cars and WalMarts, and see these trials as the moment when resistance galvanized against tyranny.
We’re walking on pure history and we know it. Now, let’s show these fuckin’ fascists what real solidarity looks like.
This is Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain from Warren Corruptional in Lebanon, Ohio. If you’re standing with the J20 rebels, you ARE the resistance…
* * *
Categories: Sean Swain