Protester exercising 1st amendment slapped with felony rioting charges

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Here4money, Nov 30, 2019.

  1. Here4money


    Meanwhile, unite the right Nazis are great people
    Meet the Tucson 12: Under Trump, Protesters Are Being Hit With Felony Riot Charges

    ON THE NIGHT of August 14, a small group of around 20 Tucson, Arizona-based activists and community members stood outside the Pima County Adult Detention Complex, making noise. They sang, they chanted, they banged drums and pans loud enough to reach the ears of those caged behind the facility’s beige concrete walls. Standing on a sidewalk, some lit small, handheld fireworks; others held up a large banner bearing the famed prison abolitionist refrain, “Fire to the prisons.” The message to those inside, as with most every noise demonstration held outside a prison: “You are not alone.”

    Noise demonstrations are a well-established practice, held all around the country, for showing solidarity with incarcerated people. They are a gesture of community, against the prison system’s brutal enforcement of isolation. In Tucson that August night, according to one attendee, the inmates could be seen dancing and waving in response.

    The demonstration wound down on its own, without any police intervention; the participants rolled up their banner, packed up their instruments, and began to disperse. Yet the police were waiting in the wings: A mile away from the facility, along a river path, a dozen sheriffs in patrol cars surrounded and arrested a group they believed had taken part in the protest.

    “Authorities in the borderland region are feeling emboldened and, as national anger around the border heats up, they will do whatever they can to make it seem impossible for resistance to exist.”
    The Tucson 12 — so named by their supporters — now face the charge of felony riot, a statute that hasn’t been used by Arizona prosecutors in years and, until Donald Trump’s presidency, had been rarely invoked anywhere in the country. In the weeks and months following Trump’s 2017 inauguration, a wave of repressive anti-protest laws were pushed onto statehouse agendas nationwide. Republicans in Arizona attempted to pass some of the most heavy-handed legislation. The state’s Senate Bill 1142 — dubbed an “anti-rioting” bill by its supporters — aimed to dramatically expand the state’s existing rioting statutes; the law would have significantly lowered the bar for what counts as participation in a riot, and protesters who were deemed “rioters” would face hefty racketeering charges. The bill passed the state Senate but died in the House. Yet, as the Tucson 12 case demonstrates, the bill wasn’t necessary for prosecutors to come down hard on protesters.

    The demonstrators’ prosecution is not the harshest contemporary instance of state repression against social justice struggle in the border region. Humanitarian Scott Warren, for example, was just found not guilty in his second trial on felony harboring charges for the crime of feeding two migrants and offering them beds after an arduous, death-defying journey through the desert. Yet the Tucson 12’s case sits at the intersection of some of the most troubling recent patterns toward the persecution of dissent: the repression of those who protest the integrated systems of mass incarceration and deportation; the targeting and demonization of left-wing organizing; and the government’s effort to reframe protests as “riots” to justify crackdowns.

    “Authorities in the borderland region are feeling emboldened and, as national anger around the border heats up, they will do whatever they can to make it seem impossible for resistance to exist,” said Brittany Johnson, a social worker and one of the 12 defendants. “If the simple act of making noise outside a prison or detention facility — or giving food, water, and respite to a traveler in need — can get you charged with felonies and wrapped up in a legal battle, this narrows the ability to imagine, much less take risks, to bring about a world where people can move freely and with dignity.”

    PIMA COUNTY JAIL has been the site of a number of protest actions in recent years. In August 2018, immigrants’ rights advocates gathered outside the complex to call for an end to its collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; in 2017, ICE officials were granted use of their own office space inside the jail. Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier removed the federal agents’ desk from the detention center a few months after the summer protests, but not in order to halt cooperation with ICE. Napier ejected the agents in an effort to encourage county supervisors to restore a $1.8 million federal grant to his department, specifically dedicated to supporting cooperation between local law enforcement and border agents. At the time, Tucson-based American Civil Liberties Union attorney Billy Peard told reporters that, while the physical removal of ICE from the jail was welcome, “it doesn’t reduce the cooperation, collaboration or communication between the agencies regarding the roughly 70 (undocumented) inmates in jail at any given time.” Pima County sheriffs continue to check the immigration status of all inmates and, as Arizona law dictates, inform ICE of all those without sufficient documents.

    The noise demonstration this August was a protest against the carceral system, not just the aspects of it dedicated to harming immigrants. And while the case against the Tucson 12 should be seen in the context of brutal law enforcement of the border region, it should also be understood in relation to crackdowns on leftist resistance more broadly around the country. These are not necessarily coordinated or directly Trump-inspired responses — the Pima County district attorney, for example, is a Democrat — but a climate of overzealous protest policing and prosecution has nonetheless settled in.

    “These charges are clearly part of a troubling pattern,” said Glen Frieden, spokesperson for the Tucson 12’s support committee. “Increasingly, police and prosecutors are levying accusations of ‘rioting’ against any political activity that challenges the existing state of affairs. It happened at Standing Rock, it happened at the protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration, and now we see it here in Tucson.”

    In another instance, 10 protesters in Utah also currently face felony riot charges following a July protest against the development of an environmentally destructive inland port. Riot charges, even when they fail to stick, have consequences: When simple acts of First Amendment-protected protest are deemed riots by prosecutors, all types of protest participation appear as a legal risk. Lowering the bar for what gets considered a riot curtails the possibility of genuinely riotous protest — a warning that serves only as a boon for the powers that be.

    The government’s most notable, and notably failed, recent attempt to charge a protest group with felony riot was the prosecution of more than 200 demonstrators who were arrested en masse on inauguration day in Washington, D.C. The protracted, bogus cases collapsed, with all charges against the “J20” defendants dropped.

    “It puts part of my life on hold, costs myself and my communities resources, and instills anxiety into my life.”
    By a stroke of grim luck, aided by widespread anti-protest crackdowns, two of the Tucson 12 were also J20 defendants, who had traveled to D.C. to march against Trump’s inauguration. “I was surprised by our charges in the Tucson 12 case because the nature of our protest was a fairly routine noise demo,” said Jayram Toraty, a member of the Tucson 12 and former J20 defendant who recently moved to Arizona. “But otherwise I wasn’t surprised to see the state leverage riot charges against protesters.” The riot charges are costly to Toraty: “It puts part of my life on hold, costs myself and my communities resources, and instills anxiety into my life.”

    With or without riot convictions, the government disrupts movements, and lives, through heavy-handed prosecutions. “It makes people distrust each other and begin to think that the other people at the protest are the biggest threat to their own freedom, rather than placing blame on the police,” said Frieden, the spokesperson. “It takes away the autonomy of different people to make choices as to whether or not they want to engage in a certain action.”

    THERE DOES NOT need to be an explicit top-down political strategy in place for policing and prosecutorial patterns to emerge. And there is little denying that the Trump presidency has seen an uptick in what Michael Loadenthal, a professor of sociology and social justice at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, calls the “felonization and riotization” of protests. A scholar of social movements, Loadenthal was himself a J20 defendant and has noted a shift since 2016 in the way protest actions have been “re-coded” as riots by law enforcement. “The term ‘riot’ implies an opaque or semi-opaque, unidentifiable, fluid, temporary, spontaneous, and amorphous mass,” wrote Loadenthal in a 2019 paper, noting how the “riot” label invokes a nefarious subject — the riotous mob — above and beyond describing a specific event or even a specific illegal activity.

    The designation of a protest as a “riot” by politicians or the media is not new and has historically been used to dismiss the vigorous and necessary political street action of black people as senseless, apolitical violence, from civil rights unrest to the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore. What is new, or at least renewed, is the police and prosecutors levying mass riot charges. Loadenthal makes particular note of the fact that, although there had been approximately 2,000 Black Lives Matter demonstrations prior to 2016 — a number of which were popularly described as “riots” — the hundreds of related arrests led to charges from “unlawful assembly” to assault and theft. Yet, as Loadenthal wrote, “In July 2016, during the blocking of a Minnesota highway following the murder of Philando Castile, 40 individuals were charged with ‘rioting.’ Only two months later, Glo Merriweather was arrested in Charlotte, NC, at a demonstration following an officer-involved shooting, and charged with felony ‘inciting a riot.’” He added, “While one may have expected such actions during the Ferguson, Missouri uprising ($4.6 million in damages) or those in Baltimore, Maryland ($13 million), it is shocking to see the use of such rioting charges when the actionable offense resembles nonviolent civil disobedience — the unarmed blocking of vehicular traffic.”

    In a legal context allegedly committed to determining the guilt or innocence of an individual, the “riot” label invokes the juridically slippery notion of collective group liability. In this sense, riot charges sit at odds with the supposed tenets of U.S. jurisprudence and individualized responsibility. “If the assembly can be deemed a riot, then the individuals present are rioters and since rioters are understood to be apolitical, irrational, amoral, criminal, and sociopathic,” Loadenthal noted in an interview last year, “they can be repressed and attacked outside of the liberal rights-based debate on freedom of assembly, chilling of speech, and so on.”

    THE PIMA COUNTY District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the pending Tucson 12 cases. But Dan South, the office’s bureau chief for community protection, said that he “can’t recall” another felony riot case brought by the county. “Admittedly, I have not come across very many Riot charges,” South wrote to The Intercept by email.

    Civil rights lawyer Paul Gattone, who is representing Toraty, told me that the government has “a weak case.” He noted, “It’s pretty outrageous. They were all on the sidewalk, no one told them to leave, and they were walking away.” According to Gattone, felony riot charges are “pretty unusual in Arizona. It’s hard to find one in the state for many years.”

    Under Arizona law, a person can be said to commit a riot if, “with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which disturbs the public peace.” The idea that the noise demonstration rose to such a level of threat is, for Gattone, “ridiculous.” The Pima County Sheriff’s Office alleged at the time that the demonstrators were being “disruptive” and throwing fireworks at the jail, although no individualized evidence against any one defendant has been provided.

    On November 18, the defendants attended a pretrial conference and were told that prosecutors were working on a new plea deal. A previous plea offer to admit to attempted rioting, a Class 6 felony carrying a possible two-year prison sentence, was roundly rejected by all members of the Tucson 12. “We’re pushing forward,” Gattone told me.

    Unlike the J20 defendants, who were threatened with decades in prison, each of the Tucson 12 face a presumptive sentence of two years if found guilty. It’s nonetheless an intolerable potential cost for taking part in a small noise demonstration. As Frieden put it, “Anyone who thinks protests and political demonstrations are valuable and necessary tools should be concerned.”

  2. If these protesters were attempting to incite a riot, they should face some heat. Prison riots can cause millions of dollars in damage and can lead to serious injury or death for some of the inmates.

    There is no greater loss of one’s rights than death.

    It does seem these protesters were a bit disorganized. Why didn’t the protesters have a group handling a video camera with a zoom lens from a safe distance away from the protest to document things?

    As things stand now, I see no reason to assume law enforcement or prosecutors are acting inappropriately. From the limited, mostly one sided information presented in this article, and assuming no one was hurt and none of the protesters have a serious criminal history, a plea deal of 30 days in jail, maybe suspended, a fine, court costs, and restitution for any related damages seems appropriate.

    If no plea agreement is reached, a jury trial should deliver a fair result.
  3. Here4money


    30 day jail sentence for exercising your 1st amendment? You would find Russia more to your taste
    piezoe likes this.
  4. Stop it. There is such a thing as attempting to incite a riot. These experienced protesters apparently knew the rules, violated them, and now are whining they are getting called out on it. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    Besides, it that not what a jury of peers is for? If jurors determines no crime is committed, they will acquit. Justice is served and the “1st Amendment Practitioners” can go back to protesting.

    Even attorneys do not have the right to exercise free speech if it violates client confidentiality. Unless, of course, that attorney can strike a plea deal after his office is raided after questionable partisan prosecutor methods in obtaining a search and seizure warrant under Democrats who are looking to gather evidence to concoct a crime out of, in order to impeach a President they don’t like. Remember Michael Cohen?

    Any other Amendment rights you want to talk about, per chance?
  5. Here4money


    Attempting to incite a riot, why? Because you've prejudged them based on some made up theory in your mind? The charges are for rioting, not inciting to riot.

    Of course this case will be thrown out. That's besides the point. The point is spurious charges should not be levied to scare people from exercising one of their rights from fear of legal cost and criminal action.
  6. Is making false accusations ok because you consider making false accusations a first Amendment Right? How about a high school student wearing a MAGA hat quietly excercising their 1st Amendment Rights? Hypocrisy much?

    Back to the rioters or protestors. I’ll use protestors because they are given the presumption of innocence until proven guilty unless they are Trump allies. This is not the protestor’s first rodeo. They know what to do as far as documentation, but they apparently did not do it. Could it be they did not want to document what they were doing because it could be used against them as evidence in a court of law? That the protestors planned to violate the law? Did not the article state these protesters were arrested away from the scene of their “protests”? Given that police are usually minutes away, especially near a prison and that most protests normally go on for more than a few minutes, it seems the protesters were attempting to leave the scene probably because they knew in their mind they crossed a legal line. All this from from a pro-protester article. I suspect when all the evidence is shown, the protestors will look like rioters or attempting to incite a riot. If so, the protestors may want to redraw the lines they are willing to cross. Further, they may want to jump on any plea deal that keeps their jail time to 30 days or less.
  7. Here4money


    The 1st example is a false equivalency, in the 2nd, no government entity restricted or asked punishment for the teenager wearing a hat once the circumstances were clear (the news prematurely reported the group of teens ganging/blocking a native). So no, hypocrisy need not apply.

    These people are getting railroaded for opposing Trump's draconian immigration laws. If they were shouting "Jews will not replace us", they'd be given a heroes welcome into the White House while being called "great people"

    If your argument is the "protesters didn't have a permit". Hit them with unlawful assembly, not some BS riot charge.

    Face it, the country's spiraling into fascism:
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  8. Based on my conversation with a convicted felon, it appears some entity is trying to radicalize our prison populations. This felon seemed to feel society “Owed” him for imprisoning him. He admitted his violating the law put him in prison. Again. As our Government is tasked with identifying and mitigating potential threats, both foreign and domestic, it is reasonable they use lawful methods in the furtherance of their duties.

    Questions that may need to be answered regarding the Arizona Protesters include:

    1. Do the protesters have a visible means of support? This is important because if they are funded by an entity, it increases the likelihood of deeper organizational purpose.

    2. Did the protesters cross state lines for their various protests? Here, too the answer to this question may indicate deeper organizational purpose and grant the FBI Investigative jurisdiction.

    3. By actions of these protesters, is there probable cause to believe a centralized entity is attempting to cause riots, civil unrest, or even civil war for political gain at the expense of the peace and security of the United States?

    As we have seen, partisan Leftists have no problem on violating another’s rights to further their political agendas. This includes applying pressure on attorneys to self incriminate and violate attorney-client privilege. The upside to that sort of system is there would no longer be a use for attorneys. The downsides are risk taking ends as well as individual freedom causing economic failure and human rights abuses.

    I agree with you the United States is and has been “Spiraling into fascism”. Bush with his waterboarding and Patriot Act; Democrats for renewing the Patriot Act several times and supporting false accusations, false police reports, abuse of investigatory powers, and so on.

    So both Parties have been complicit in abusing police powers, but the difference between Trump Supporters and the Radical Left is in the use of their free speech: The Left uses free speech to cause dissension with baseless calls of racism, etc; the Right uses free speech to spread the idea of “Making America Great Again”.

    I know which message I’m supporting.

    How about you?
  9. vanzandt


    Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1963).

    In an 8-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court overturned the breach of peace convictions of 180 black students who had peacefully marched to the state capitol to protest discrimination. The police stopped the demonstration and arrested the students because they were afraid that the 200-300 people who gathered to watch the demonstration might cause a riot. The court held the state law unconstitutionally over-broad because it penalized the exercise of free speech, peaceable assembly, and the right of petition for a redress of grievances. A disorderly crowd, or the fear of one, cannot be used to stop a peaceful demonstration or cancel the right of peaceable assembly.
    piezoe, Here4money and El OchoCinco like this.
  10. Here4money


    I'm supporting the message of facts, the rule of law, and not kooky bullshit conspiracies.
    #10     Dec 1, 2019