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Solidarity Event Planned with J20 Arrestees

January 17, 2018

(Editor’s note: This post was submitted anonymously.)

Almost a year ago, 230 people were mass arrested at protests against President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Following the arrest – which happened at an “anti-capitalist and anti-fascist” march – approximately 210 people were indicted on eight felony charges of inciting a riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and five counts of felony property destruction, punishable by up to 75 years in prison. While two charges – rioting and conspiracy to riot – have been reduced to misdemeanors, defendants are still facing the prospect of 60 years in prison.

Since January of last year, the cases have wound their way through the legal system. After mass arresting an entire city block, the government is attempting to retroactively build a case by searching seized cell phones, pouring over video recordings (some of which were obtained by alt-right sources), and subponeaing website records in an attempt to bolster its prosecution. Beyond this, the prosecution is arguing that mere presence at the protest is enough to warrant conviction.

For those who want a quick overview of the case, the following video provides a helpful introduction:

In December, the first six defendants to go to trial were acquitted of all the charges against them. Despite this legal victory, there is no indication from the prosecution that they plan to drop the charges against the remaining defendants. Instead, trials are scheduled through October of 2018.

Beyond the individual consequences of repression for the defendants – which have included emotional stress, financial stress, lost jobs, and harassment – the case could have broad consequences for social movements. If the state succeeds in this experiment, it will mean that any protest could be mass arrested and face the prospect of felony convictions and lengthy prison terms. Moreover, the state is attempting to redefine basic political organizing as conspiracy, which would greatly increase the stakes for anyone who chooses to organize within their communities. In light of the always increasing inequality brought by capitalism and the blatant white supremacy and misogyny represented by the Trump administration, “organizing” – as it always has been for marginalized communities – will increasingly become less of a choice and more of a necessity – meaning that we all will face this risk if the state is successful.

The primary need for the J20 defendants is money. The lengthy legal process is incredibly costly, with defendants from diverse regions being forced to travel back to Washington DC for court dates and eventually having to move to DC for trial. You can donate to the legal defense fund here.

A diverse group of people have organized to support the J20 defendants. The umbrella group Defend J20 Resistance is a centralized location for these support efforts and information on the case. Other initiatives – such as a recently called for week of solidarity – aim to raise the profile of the case. A “Statement of Solidarity” has been endorsed by dozens of organizations. Beyond these efforts, it is critically important that people help spread the word about the case as much of the broader left has been strikingly silent about it.

J20 Solidarity Event Planned in Grand Rapids

Here in Grand Rapids, there is an event planned on January 20 – the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration – to raise awareness about the J20 cases. The event is at 1:00pm at Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.

In addition to information about the J20 case, there will also be speakers from a variety of organizations about the various struggles taking place against the Trump administration.

This underscores an important point about the necessity of continued struggle as a means of solidarity. When the state increases repression, it should be met with increased resistance. If people simply cower and walk away, it will make it that much easier for the state to succeed. An important part of supporting the J20 defendants is to continue the struggles against capitalism and fascism.

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