Antifa, allies demand J20 charges be dropped outside DC courthouse

Inauguration Day proved to be one of the most violent, chaotic days in recent memory for Washington D.C. On January 20, anger over a divisive president - blended with an increasing sense of desperation to fight back against a perceived tide of far-right nationalism - boiled over into a street war between the American version of the European far-left, extra-paramilitary Antifa (short for "Antifascist Action") and an amalgamated, multi-department police force.

In the chaos and confusion that ensued, 230 people were swept up in a mass arrest in the vicinity of Franklin Square. At News2Share, we witnessed one such arrest in which a large group of people, including several journalists and legal observers, were cornered into a curb by a large police force following damage to local businesses during an unpermitted "black bloc" action by a group called DisruptJ20, departing from Logan Circle southbound toward the parade route.

It's now just over 100 days after Trump's inauguration, and the story of the inaugural mass arrests has by no means disappeared. In the days since, activists have had their homes raided by police, electronics confiscated, and have suddenly found themselves facing charges - in some cases, multiple - in connection with the January 20 unrest, months after the fact. DisruptJ20, having since reorganized under the name ResistThis, continues to call for the charges to be dropped.

"On April 27th, a prominent local organizer was indicted with eight felony charges in relation to his involvement in the J20 protests," ResistThis said, in an April 28 email asking for donations to aid in legal defense. "Beyond bringing new defendants into this ongoing legal battle, MPD has also brought up to eight additional charges against other J20 defendants."

This May Day, on the heels of a recent police raid and indictment against a J20 activist, ResistThis elected to continue pressure on city authorities by holding a rally outside the Superior Court of D.C. in which their trials are due to start sometime in 2018. Led by Sammi LeMaster, a local organizer, several dozen wearing all black blocked the courthouse's Indiana Avenue entrance, with chants including "masking up is not a crime," "drop the charges," and "if we don't get it, burn it down."

Several marched over from Freedom Square following the conclusion of a May Day rally by area workers. They held the red and black flags characteristic of the Antifa network, as police formed a line guarding the entrance to the courthouse, later reinforced with a second barrier of bicycles. Despite brief clashes earlier between members of the same group and alt-right figure Jack Posobiec, during which the later accused an Antifa protester of assault, the rally outside the courthouse went on without incident.

My colleague Ford Fischer filmed the whole encounter with Posobiec, which you can watch here, I'll have an article up with my own take later.

The rally demanded all charges against January 20 protesters be dropped, without exception, and vowed continued pressure against city officials until their demands are met. At one point, two young men exited the courthouse, mentioning to those gathered that they had been recently incarcerated. That resulted in chants of "all incarceration is political," and one of the men was given the megaphone, through which he expressed solidarity with the protesters and, ultimately, his wish that his tax money at least be used to improve jail conditions - "with my money, I should at least be getting spaghetti."