25 August 2017

Facing 80 Years for Protesting Trump’s Inauguration

In Donald Trump’s America, the penalty for leftist protest could well be life behind bars. Thousands hit the streets of Washington, D.C., on January 20 to protest Trump’s inauguration. Amid an orgy of police violence, more than 200 were arrested and slammed with felony riot charges carrying jail sentences of up to ten years and $25,000 fines. But these frame-up charges were not enough for the vindictive ruling class. On April 27, prosecutors piled on eight new felony charges—including urging to riot, conspiracy to riot and destruction of property—while also charging three additional protesters. Filed at the behest of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C., the fiefdom of notorious racist and defender of the Confederacy, Jeff Sessions, these charges carry jail terms of up to 80 years. It is in the vital interest of the labor movement and all opponents of state repression to protest this legal witchhunt and demand: Drop all the charges!

Now, Sessions’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is trying to learn the identities of everyone who visited disruptj20.org. Claiming this website was used to organize “a violent riot,” the DOJ is demanding that the web hosting service DreamHost turn over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses, in addition to contact information, photos and email content of thousands of people. This fishing expedition would expose untold numbers to the prying eyes of government prosecutors, setting them up for legal victimization.

On June 21, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of those charged. The suit detailed how detainees were held for hours without food or water or access to toilets. Two of the plaintiffs, Shay Horse and Milo Gonzalez, described the cops yanking their testicles and sticking fingers into their rectums while laughing. “I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment,” Horse said later. “It felt like they were trying to break me and the others.” In addition to the threat posed by state prosecution, many of the defendants have been “doxxed” by fascists—their names and addresses have been plastered all over the web. Meanwhile, those charged are facing mounting travel and legal expenses and, in some cases, job losses.

Facing massive prison terms, several of the defendants have been pushed into pleading guilty to lesser charges. At the same time, more than 130 defendants assisted by anarchist support groups like Dead City Legal Posse have, in a show of solidarity, pledged to reject any potential plea deals and to refuse to rat out any of their codefendants.

It is clear that the Trump administration is trying to muzzle dissent—to intimidate and silence black people, minorities, leftists and workers seeking to protest or in any way challenge this deeply racist, exploitative capitalist order. But the “fight the right” anti-Trump forces, in both their “peaceful, legal” and anarchist garb, at bottom aim to bolster the fortunes of the Democratic Party as some kind of “lesser evil.” The Democrats represent the same repressive capitalist system—witness Bill Clinton’s mass incarceration of young black men and Barack Obama’s mass deportation of immigrants.

We seek to mobilize the working class at the head of all the oppressed, independent of all capitalist parties and in opposition to the capitalists and their state. In “Defend Arrested Anti-Trump Protesters!” (WV No. 1104, 27 January), we underlined: “As the Trump presidency unfolds in all its viciousness, protests against it will continue, as will state violence and repression. Anger against poverty and racial and sexual oppression must be given an organized political expression aimed at breaking the hold of the Democratic Party over workers, women and minorities. We fight to build a revolutionary workers party that can lead the struggle to get rid of the entire capitalist system.”

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1116, 25 August 2017)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.