WASHINGTON -- A jury has found all six defendants in the first criminal trials against Inauguration Day protestors in D.C. Superior Court not guilty on all counts.
Scott Michelman, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of the District of Columbia, issued the following statement:
“Today’s verdict reaffirms two central constitutional principles of our democracy: first, that dissent is not a crime, and second, that our justice system does not permit guilt by association. We hope today’s verdict begins the important work of teaching police and prosecutors to respect the line between lawbreaking and constitutionally protected protest. We hope that the U.S. Attorney’s Office gets the message and moves quickly to drop all remaining charges against peaceful demonstrators.
“For nearly a year, these people have been under the cloud of felony charges that have turned their lives upside down, subjecting them to the anxiety and expense of defending themselves against charges that should never have been brought. No one should have to fear arrest or prosecution for coming to the nation’s capital to express opinions peacefully, no matter what those opinions may be. Through our civil lawsuit against the police, the ACLU-DC will continue to fight for demonstrators’ constitutional rights.
The defendants had faced eight charges of rioting, property destruction, and conspiracy, with a maximum sentence of more than 60 years. More than 150 defendants face similar charges in trials that will take place next year.
In June, the ACLU-DC filed a civil lawsuit against the District of Columbia and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department on behalf of four individuals. The ACLU-DC lawsuit charges that in response to demonstrations in the District on Inauguration Day, D.C. police carried out an unlawful mass round-up, pepper-sprayed nonviolent demonstrators, and held detainees for many hours without food, water, or access to bathrooms. The case remains pending before the federal district court in Washington, D.C.