While much of the country is busy talking about President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the government is moving forward with a trial that could set a dangerous precedent for future protesters in the United States.
Disrupt J20, a Washington, D.C.-based political organization, organized a rally on Jan. 20 in protest of Trump's presidential inauguration. The demonstration soon turned violent and resulted in what were described as "indiscriminate" arrests of more than 230 people, including journalists and lawyers.
Now more than 200 defendants stand on trial as a group, which means they could face consequences for any crimes committed by other people who were also present at the protest.
For instance, during the trial of six of the over 200 people arrested at J20 protests, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff narrated to jurors about how a small group of demonstrators smashed the windows of a Starbucks and Bank of America.
Without providing any evidence, whatsoever, that the six defendants were involved in the violence, Kerkhoff argued each played "a role in the violence and destruction moving together through this city."
This essentially means if you are at a protest and someone else, let's say, burns a car, the government can hold you responsible for that crime.
Eoin Higgins of The Intercept wrote in October of the trial that the government was trying to make an example of the anti-Trump J20 protesters.
“They’re prosecuting us as a group,” Texas photojournalist, Alexei Wood, told Higgins. Wood was live-streaming the protests when the situation turned chaotic.
“There are approximately 200 people facing 70 years, going to trial for six broken windows," Alex Stokes, another journalist who was arrested on the same day, told The Intercept. “This is insane.”
Aaron Cantu, who has written for Al Jazeera and Vice, was also arrested at the protests.
"These charges have the effect of punishing journalists for documenting political protests, and the continued prosecution of Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood poses a serious and fundamental threat to press freedom," Camille Fassett of Freedom of the Press Foundation wrote in November.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters