Donald Trump is the least popular president to serve in US history, so it's no surprise that the call for mass, "J20 demonstrations" at his inauguration would be answered by massive crowds.
As with many protests, there was a small number of black bloc participants who engaged in minor acts of vandalism, smashing six windows. The DC police kettled hundreds of protesters in response, and after more than 100 escaped, they slapped the remaining 200 protesters with felony conspiracy charges, so that each protester now faces up to 70 years in prison for being in the same place as a black bloc action.
Among the defendants is Alexei Wood, a freelance photojournalist who had his equipment seized by police, who are able to use the pretense of his guilt to get ahold of his footage and use it against the other defendants.
It's ultimately unclear what will happen to Wood and his co-defendants during their trial and in subsequent cases. "Nobody knows what to expect," said Cohen, the lawyer. It seems clear to observers, though, that the case against Wood and the rest of the defendants — and the looming 70-year sentences — is meant to send a message. "I don't know what kind of mental gymnastics they're going to have to perform in the courtroom to make that seem reasonable," said Stokes. "You could murder someone — if somebody walked into downtown D.C., pulled a gun out, and shot a cop in the head — and you could get less time than what these people are facing." First-degree murder charges in D.C. carry a minimum sentence of 30 years.
Stokes said the case represented a drastic overreach in law enforcement's response to the protests. "There are approximately 200 people facing 70 years, going to trial for six broken windows," he said. "This is insane." Stokes added that the protesters were not given an order to disperse.
The injustice of the arrest, the charges, and the case isn't lost on Wood either. And while the government may be trying to turn the defendants against each other, he is maintaining a sense of solidarity that he plans to carry even after his own case ends. "Any fucking support I can give them," Wood said, of the other defendants facing trial, "I will."
HUNDREDS FACE CONSPIRACY CHARGES FOR ACTIONS OF A FEW DURING INAUGURATION DAY PROTESTS [Eoin Higgins/The Intercept]
(Image: Mobilus In Mobili