Every month since President Trump’s inauguration there have been hundreds of protests across the country, most of them in opposition to the new administration and its policies, according to the Crowd Counting Consortium.
The White House is not sitting idle, they are fighting back in the courts where 194 protesters face up to 60 years in prison after being rounded up during the inauguration day riots and charged under the federal statute.
“This sends a chilling message to people that it’s not ok to protest the government and its policies,” said attorney and civil rights activist Kris Hermes.
Hermes is a member of Defend J20 Resistance, a group which formed to support the protesters in this case. The remaining defendants, which include two journalists from Texas, have banded together and turned down plea deals and promised not to testify against each other.
The first trial began on Nov. 15 and is expected to continue through the first half of December. A total of nine defendants are being judged by a jury on charges including rioting, inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot and multiple counts of property destruction.
Hermes has attended every day of the trial along with other Defend J20 members and said a lot of what the government is producing as evidence of conspiracy is, “normal organizing activity.”
“This is how people come together to plan political protests,” Hermes said.
“To say that that kind of political organizing is a conspiracy is absurd,” he added. “And it indicates a level of misunderstanding of the first amendment, and the aggressive way the federal government is going after people who wanted to protest the inauguration of President Trump.”
This is the first of about 20 trials stemming from the inauguration day arrests that will take place in DC’s superior over the next year.
Since February more than 3,000 people have been arrested at rallies, protests and demonstrations across the U.S., according to the Crowd Counting Consortium.
The consortium was one of the leading groups who tracked the number of demonstrations and people worldwide who participated on Jan. 21, 2017, Womens’ March.
Since then they’ve counted more than 6,300 events nationwide including protests, rallies, sit-ins and demonstrations.
In October, about 70 percent of these events were anti-Trump compared to about 10 percent in support of the president. More than 60,000 people showed up to these political gatherings in October from coast to coast, according to the consortium.
Many of the protests in October were spurred by Trump’s Twitter attacks on the #TakeaKnee movement and the rescinding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.
But most of the arrests took place on Oct. 3, in St. Louis when 143 people were arrested after blocking an interstate highway. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch the demonstrators were protesting the acquittal of a white former police officer in the 2011 killing of a black man.
Other major demonstrations included two in New York, where thousands of people gathered to demand action against climate change and remember the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
A New Era
“In the United States, unfortunately, we’ve had a situation for the last 20 years or so where police aggressively attack dissent in this country, often violently and prevent people from freely expressing themselves in the streets,” Hermes said.
“That’s nothing new, however, the level of charges and the level of aggressive prosecution that followed is something new,” he added referring to the ongoing trial of 194 people facing up to 60 years in prison for the inauguration day riots.
Two of the defendants, in this case, are journalists; Alexi Wood and Aaron Cantu. The government has accused them of being a part of the “black bloc” or militant protesters, who smashed windows and caused some $100,000 in damages in downtown D.C.
If either Wood or Cantu is convicted and sent to prison they would be the first journalists jailed in the U.S. since 2013, according to data from the Center to Protect Journalists.