Outrageous Convictions of A14 Defendants!

“I am not gonna stop, because they’re the ones
that should be found guilty.  Not me!”

Deceber 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On Thursday, November 19, three young revolutionaries were convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court of three misdemeanor charges each: being on railroad property without permission; disobeying a “lawful” order from a police officer; and blocking public access.  They were arrested on April 14, a national day of protest against police murder.  Their sentencing is scheduled to take place this Thursday, December 3.  The trials of seven other #April 14 protesters are scheduled to begin on December 11 on the same charges.

Los Angeles April 14

Los Angeles April 14, 2015.

These verdicts are outrageous, and completely unjust.  One of the three defendants, right after being found guilty, spoke with passion to the heart of this injustice:

I have not taken one life from anybody.  And these cops have killed more than 1,000 people in one year, and almost none have spent one day in court.  I’ve spent more time in jail than they have.  I have not taken anybody’s life, and yet I was found guilty.  I did nothing wrong.  And if they think I’m gonna stop because I was found guilty then they are fucking wrong.  I’m not gonna stop, because they are the ones that should be found guilty.  Not me! 

Police murderers are exonerated; protesting them is a crime

Murder by police in this country is an epidemic and is part of a genocide against Black people and horrific oppression of Latinos.  Yet time and time again, police get away with murder.  Eric Garner, father of six children and three grandchildren, strangled to death for selling loose cigarettes; Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child in a park with a pellet gun, shot dead less than two seconds after cops drove up to the scene; “Brother Africa” in L.A.’s Skid Row, shot to death after being jumped on by half a dozen cops; Sandra Bland, stopped and arrested without cause in Texas, found dead while in custody two days later.  The list goes on and on, added to every day.  Very few of these killings lead to arrests, and even fewer lead to convictions.  When this does happen, it is only because of the kind of resistance that is being criminalized through these trials.

Importance of the April 14 actions to “Shut Down Business As Usual”

The April 14 protests that took place in over 30 cities across the country came at a crucial moment in the battle to Stop Police Murder.  Was the massive, unprecedented upsurge of thousands across the country that had been sparked by the actions of the “defiant ones” in Ferguson, Missouri, going to be smothered by the attacks, slanders, and calls to return to “calm” which had been this system’s response?  Or was this movement going to retake the offensive to stop these unending police killings, and at the same time advance the overall movement for an actual revolution in this country.  Those were the stakes.  In the face of all that, through the actions on April 14 in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and many other cities the door was kicked back open! 

In Los Angeles the protest began downtown with close to a thousand protesters, including hundreds of high school students who had walked out of several schools in the face of warnings and threats by school administrators and marched blocks and blocks to get to the rally in front of LAPD Headquarters!  As we wrote in summing up the April 14 protests around the country, “A major element—you could even say the driving force—in the success of A14 were the youth who are fed up with this and refuse to be bottled up, or put in the pen of protest-as-usual.”  This was definitely true in Los Angeles. 

When the march went through Skid Row and stopped at the site where “Brother Africa” had been murdered by the LAPD just six weeks earlier, many of the students were stunned and silent at seeing the way that tens of thousands of human beings are forced to live under this system.  The permitted march continued through downtown, stopping traffic and making drivers ask themselves “Which side are you on?”  A recently graduated African-American student, when he learned what the protest was about, parked his car, grabbed a sign, and joined the march! 

The protest eventually came to its scheduled rally site in the intersection with the street where the Blue Line train runs.  The remaining 100 to 200 protesters took over the intersection, with an hour left before the permit for the march and rally expired.  They marched a block along the tracks, up to the spot where a Blue Line train had stopped.  The police arrived in massive force; they arrested 14 protesters, charging them with blocking the train; they declared the protest an illegal assembly; and dispersed the crowd.

A politically motivated prosecution from start to finish

As part of the overall political repression against protests to stop police terror, the City Attorney piled on charges against these protesters—three misdemeanors for each defendant with a possible three years in jail.

Even before the trial started, the defendants and their supporters were harassed by the sheriffs and prevented from entering the courthouse wearing the “BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” t-shirts.  Revolution newspapers and political literature were confiscated.  The sheriffs searched the backpack of another defendant and prevented her from getting to her own court appearance because she was carrying “prohibited literature”—palm cards promoting the Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West on Revolution and Religion.   After a lawyer made an argument to the judge, where he was facing potential contempt of court, the judge ruled the t-shirts would be allowed. 

The prosecutor assigned to the case specializes in political prosecutions.  She is reportedly handling all the cases of people arrested since the outbreak in Ferguson last November.  And this is the same prosecutor who went after the Occupy Los Angeles protesters arrested when Occupy was driven from their space in front of City Hall—including a photographer grabbed by cops from behind and thrown down a flight of stairs—leading to a $2.5 million settlement by the city for unlawful arrests. 

The jury was told by the judge and the prosecutor that while the case arose out of a protest against police murder, they were not to consider that fact in arriving at their verdict—even though the heart of the case was whether the state was going to get away with continuing to exonerate one police murderer after another, and punish those who were putting themselves on the line to challenge what has become “business as usual.”  Also, in the trial itself, the prosecutor brought in irrelevant political questions about whether people were with the so-called “Radical Communist Party” and asking what was meant by the t-shirt people were wearing: “BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!”

Most significantly, one of the cops overall in charge of operations that day testified that a sergeant and four other officers were assigned to operate undercover from beginning to end—to “provide intelligence.”  He testified that he was constantly being updated by these undercover cops, informing how he made decisions.  But no reports by these undercover cops were ever provided to the defense, nor were their identities disclosed.  What they were reporting—and doing—from within the march, and how that affected what the police did that day, has yet to be revealed. 

The jurors were told that the LAPD was forced to call for a city-wide Tactical Alert.  This is outrageous!  The prosecutors painted those fighting for justice, unarmed and sitting on the ground, as more dangerous to the population than the LAPD who have killed more people this year than any other police force in the country. 
In her closing arguments, the prosecutor had the nerve to justify this despicable prosecution by pointing to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, who she said were both willing to “suffer the consequences” when they broke the law.  She was telling the jury that the rule of law in this country—where it is deemed “justifiable” when police murder innocent people and wrong for people to protest this—should be tolerated and enforced.  This is itself a deep exposure of the actual role of the courts in defending the crimes of this system—justifying convictions in this case by pointing to previous courts that defended the horrors of legal segregation in the South against MLK’s fight to end them; and the ugly Apartheid system of racist South Africa that sent Mandela to prison for 27 years.   

The Jury Verdict Was Unjustified

Each of the defendants took the stand and spoke with heart and with clarity about the continuing killings by police.  One defendant told the whole story of what happened to Tamir Rice and talked about their own 12-year-old nephew.  They spoke about feeling a moral responsibility to put themselves on the line to stop this. 

In their closing arguments, all three defense attorneys gave moving and substantive tributes to the defendants; they talked about how honored they were to represent them; that they were doing something right—out in the streets protesting injustice—and that we need more of them.  They made the argument that the defendants should not be punished while police who consistently break the laws go unpunished.   Many of their supporters inside the courtroom were moved to tears.  One of the attorneys said that her client was giving voice to those who will not get to go home to their families.  Another said they should never have been arrested; “you can do something about stopping police killings by voting not guilty.” And that’s what the jury should have done. 

These defendants should never have been charged let alone convicted of any of the charges in this case.  And the jury had plenty of evidence to draw that same conclusion themselves.  Look at the way the laws are applied, over and over, when it is the brutality and killings by police that are called into question: Ezell Ford was murdered by the LAPD nearly 16 months ago; and it’s been six months since the Los Angeles Police Commission issued a ruling stating that one of the cops violated Ezell’s civil rights by stopping him—yet no charges have been filed.  The video of the killing of Brendon Glenn by LAPD seven months ago in Venice, California still has not been released, despite the chief of police himself saying after viewing it that he hadn’t seen any evidence that would justify this killing.  The video of the brutal beating of Clinton Alford by LAPD cops 14 months ago has still not been released.  And with the murder of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, they’ve only now pulled together a grand jury and are greasing the skids to exonerate the killer cop.

Yet those who protest this—with right on their side—are prosecuted.  Again, the question is posed: which side are you on?

Demand No Jail Time; and Drop the Charges on the Remaining Defendants!

The legal attacks on, and now the convictions of, the three April 14 protesters in Los Angeles, as well as the attacks and threatened prosecutions of demonstrators at other protests against police murders over the past year, are the real crimes that are being carried out—in order to protect the criminal system that needs the police to enforce their rule with such brutality and violence.  This is what is being resorted to and relied on in the face of the growing outrage and questioning of the legitimacy of a system that continues to exonerate killer cops.  We have to go on the political and legal offensive against these prosecutions and convictions—fighting this is an absolutely necessary part of STOPPING police terror. 

As a statement from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network LA against these charges and prosecutions says: “These arrests and prosecutions are meant to send a message of fear and intimidation to force people to accept the business as usual of murder and brutality by police; they are meant to send a message that ‘if you act in meaningful and determined political resistance, we will shut you down.’  Whether it be the tanks and tear gas in the streets of Ferguson, boycotts and bully threats aimed at silencing prominent voices who speak out or mass arrests in Baltimore, Los Angeles or New York, we will not accept this.”

NO JAIL TIME for the convicted defendants; 
DROP THE CHARGES on the remaining seven A14 defendants
and all those who are under attack for fighting to stop police terror!

What you can do:

  1. Sign and circulate this statement:

  1. Call Judge David Fields at 213-628-7746 to demand no jail time for the convicted protestors. Send statements to stopmassincarcerationsocal@yahoo.com or call SMIN SoCal at 213-840-5348. Stop Mass Incarceration Network will forward the statements to Judge David Fields and to the City Attorney's Office.

  1. Pack the courtroom:
    Thursday, December 3 at 9:00am and Friday, December 11 at 8:30am. Criminal Court Building; 210 W. Temple St., downtown Los Angeles. December 3 is the sentencing hearing for the three convicted protestors. 7th Floor, Department 46. December 11 is the start of trial for the next set of April 14 protestors. 7th Floor, Department 56

  1. Contribute funds for the political and legal defense.
    Organize fundraising parties and activities. Send checks to Stop Mass Incarceration Network / AFGJ. In the memo line write: "Legal Defense - LA April 14 Protests." Send to:
    Stop Mass Incarceration Network
    PO Box 941, Knickerbocker Station
    New York City, NY 10002-0900

  1. Be part of building this political and legal defense!
    Stop Mass Incarceration Network, So Cal
    Phone: 213.840.5348
    Email: stopmassincarcerationsocal@yahoo.com



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