The Fascist Trump/Pence Regime’s Vicious Persecution of Inauguration Day Protesters

May 1, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


On January 20, thousands took to the streets in Washington, DC to protest the Trump inauguration. When some protesters clashed with police, more than 200 people were arrested, including legal observers and journalists. Initially most of those arrested were hit with one count of felony rioting, punishable for up to 10 years in prison. Now a grand jury, on April 28, has added new charges: inciting or urging to riot, conspiracy to riot, and counts of destruction of property.

The new indictment also charges three people not arrested on January 20. One of them, Dylan Petrohilos, a 28-year-old graphic designer who had his home raided by the police on April 3, was charged with rioting, conspiracy, and multiple counts of destruction of property.

Activists have called this outrageous persecution of protesters “the criminalization of dissent.”

A January 23 press release from the National Lawyers Guild said protesters were subjected to chemical weapons, including tear gas and pepper spray. It also described how police violated a law, which prohibits kettling [corralling] and mass arrests, and requires police to give dispersal warnings. The NLG said, “Police held arrestees at 12th and L St. NW for hours, denying basic needs such as treatment for injuries, water, and access to bathrooms. Police then pepper sprayed, tear gassed and subjected other protesters to concussion grenades without warning, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and children. Most were held overnight, and all were eventually charged with the felony of inciting a riot, despite a lack of individualized probable cause. In addition, phones and other belongings were confiscated by police as evidence....”

Samantha Miller, an organizer with the Disrupt J20 Collective, one of the groups that called for the protest, said, “These charges are absolutely horrifying. They are just trying to stop any resistance to the Trump administration. Many of these demonstrators were showing rage and fear of what’s coming. It’s going to take a lot more than asking nicely to create change and stop the threats from the Trump administration.” (Alternet, January 22, 2017)

The police and the government are not saying that most or even many of those arrested were directly engaged in property destruction or violence. They say the mass arrests were based on probable cause that each and every one of those arrested had “willfully incited or urged others to engage in the riot.” But according to the law, even in the case of an alleged riot, the police must have probable cause to arrest each and every individual.

At a pretrial hearing a U.S. attorney said each defendant would be shown individuated evidence of their participation in the riot and its incitement. But later, lawyers for those arrested were informed that this alleged evidence basically amounted to people being at the march and wearing black clothes. (Esquire, “How the Government is Turning Protesters into Felons,” April 12, 2017)

A press release from ResistThis (formerly DisruptJ20) described the April 3 raid on Dylan Petrohilos, one of those newly charged on April 27: “Washington DC metro police unjustly raided the home of a known prominent activist involved in the protests of the inauguration of Donald Trump ... police kicked in the door of the activist’s house, came in with their guns drawn, then ransacked the home, leaving items strewn about the floor. They confiscated thousands of dollars of electronic equipment, including computers, mobile phones, sound speakers, and a smart television. Inexplicably, the police also stole flags, banners, and even artwork...”

Such mass arrests are, of course, not new in America. For example, more than 700 Occupy protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2011. But for more than a decade now, mass arrests, let alone with felony charges, have been rare in DC. And the charge of felony riot is also somewhat rare, let alone being used against 200 people. Now the fascist Trump/Pence regime is sending out a clear message for how it is going to deal with dissent.

This is part of a fascist program that denies constitutional rights and unleashes the police and courts to criminalize dissent—that aims to demonize and severely repress any who defy its violent reinforcement of white supremacy, misogyny, and national chauvinism. As has pointed out:

Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”

This IS what the Trump/Pence regime is hammering into place. This IS a fascist regime that must be driven out!




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