DefendJ20 – Fight the Charges, Build the Movement!

A Statement by the BRRN Anti-Criminalization Committee

On January 18th, two days before the one year anniversary of the J20 demonstrations, the Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC dismissed all charges against 129 defendants who were arrested during the Inauguration Day protests last year. While this is a victory for friends, families, and defendants who showed support to fight the charges, of the 188 remaining defendants, 59 of them still face up to 60 years in prison.

Targeting Militancy

The J20 cases have become a deliberate attempt by the state to label protestors as felons and agitators, and to vehemently punish collective dissent. According to a motion filed by the US Attorney’s office, the government is channeling its efforts to prosecuting defendants who 1) engaged in identifiable acts of destruction/violence and assaultive conduct, 2) participated in the planning of violence and destruction, and 3) demonstrated an intentional use of the black bloc tactic. It is evident that the emphasis on the “black bloc” serves to foment public disapproval against militant direct action, but also against a specific tactic used by anarchists, revolutionary anti-capitalists and allies, and thus targets those on the left for specific politics. The association of black bloc with anarchism, and now the state’s legal repression of this tactic, makes clear the state’s intentions.

A Flimsy Case

The list of those still facing felony charges include journalists, medics, and protesters. Since the inception of these trials the prosecution had no evidence tying any of the protesters with destruction. More than 200 participants were indicted on felony riot charges: inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property. Along with these amorphous accusations, the prosecution handled their own investigation poorly with misconduct, shoddy evidence, and encroaching investigation tactics.

Controlling Dissent

We live in dangerous times and the repression coming out of the J20 trials has yet to fully reveal how the current administration seeks to and can control future dissent. We must continue channeling our organizing efforts to fight against a state that allows the Neo-Nazi who killed Heather Heyer to face less time than a group of protesters who may or may not have broken a handful of windows. We also note that as political disaffection and polarization grows, the legitimacy of the state wanes, and thus the will of the urge of the state to use repression can strengthen.

Building an Offensive Resistance

Defensive organizing takes precedence in this moment but we also need to build on the public momentum of these trials as they are happening in tandem with prison strikes and the backlash against the white supremacist violence of the police. We believe though that it is not only possible but essential to use this momentum towards an offensive strategy, which means not just holding our ground against repression but building larger struggles and social movements to beat back and disable the power of the state to commit violence in our daily lives.  

The J20 trials are not just battles in a courtroom but a political battle over the narrative of resistance and repression. Building broad support within social struggles for J20 defendants is key. Packing the courts, raising funds, and events that raise public awareness are pivotal in the upcoming cases of the remaining 59 defendants. Let’s continue our efforts in the struggle! Viva l@s que luchan!


For upcoming events this weekend and the coming week, see here and here.

To learn more about the arrestees and how to support them: