Remember DisruptJ20? They’re the group of protesters who came to Washington, DC in January with the goal of creating chaos and, if possible, shutting down Trump’s inauguration. Over 200 of them were arrested and today the first six were acquitted on all charges. From the Washington Post:
Following a nearly four-week trial and two full days of deliberations, a D.C. Superior Court jury delivered not-guilty verdicts Thursday on multiple charges of rioting and destruction of property…
From the start, defense attorneys said their clients and most others in the group of about 500 were peacefully protesting, while only a handful peeled off and became violent. They criticized police for failing to identify those people and said officers unfairly herded a group of about 200 and charged them with rioting…
But prosecutors said the demonstration, planned by a group that calls itself DisruptJ20, was aimed at destruction, not freedom of expression. Authorities say the group used “black bloc” tactics — wearing dark clothing and hiding their faces with masks and goggles so it would be harder to identify them. Some came armed with hammers, crowbars and bricks.
Prosecutors told jurors there was no evidence the six people on trial were personally involved in the vandalism but stressed that they chose to remain with the group, essentially providing cover for those who caused the damage.
In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rizwan Qureshi told jurors the group “tore up your city, putting people in danger.”
As I wrote at the time, DisruptJ20 attempted to block various checkpoints around the city and scuffled with some Trump supporters and police. When that failed, a large group of black bloc goons ran through the city breaking windows and setting fires. Here’s a bit of what that looked like.
They also set a limousine on fire:
Someone set the limo on fire. pic.twitter.com/y4AFr5HNjk
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) January 20, 2017
In addition to the property damage, six police officers were injured dealing with these thugs. There are still nearly 200 more protesters who will face trials (5-10 at a time) throughout 2018, but if the charges are similar it seems possible no one is going to jail for any of this.
The message of this acquittal is going to be loud and clear to Antifa: Wearing masks is a get out of jail free card. As long as no one can identify who broke which window or who started which fire, you’re safe from all consequences. This was their plan all along. I guarantee you some of these 200 people know exactly who did what. Some of them recognize their friends in those videos, but they are operating as a gang. No one will snitch on their fellow gang members.
That’s exactly what happened at an Antifa riot in Sacramento last June. Police spent months writing a 2,000-page report identifying hundreds of crimes caught on video but in the end, only a handful of people were arrested because their identities were concealed:
The report lists 514 misdemeanor and 68 felony violations involving 106 people relating to everything from unlawful assembly to assault with a deadly weapon, according to a prepared statement.
The CHP said its investigators “faced several challenges” as they did their work. Authorities said, in particular, many people involved with the rally tried “to disguise their identities and did not cooperate with investigators.”
People have a right to protest the President, that should go without saying. But vandalism, violence, and arson are not protest activities, they’re crimes. Things could still change but we’re off to a bad start in these prosecutions. As long as these violent tactics don’t result in jail time, we’re going to continue to see more of them.