Target: Channing D. Phillips, U.S. Attorney for D.C.
Goal: Drop felony riot charges against journalists and legal observers who were arrested on inauguration day.
Washington D.C. police have charged 230 people including journalists and legal observers with felony riot charges. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 fines. The charges stem from inauguration day protests where some protesters smashed windows and lit fires. The D.C. police responded by kettling and arresting everyone present including journalists and legal observers. Despite journalists identifying themselves as members of the press, they were held overnight in jail and charged along with protesters. The legal observers, mostly trained by the National Lawyers Guild, were wearing bright green hats to ensure that law enforcement could distinguish them from the protesters.
It is unclear what evidence, if any, supports theses felony riot charges. What is clear is that, should these cases move forward, they will have a negative impact on journalism and legal observation in America. Both of these are critical for ensuring the accountability of law enforcement and verifying government accounts of protests. Sign our petition and demand that the US. Attorney of D.C. drop all charges against the journalists and legal observers arrested on inauguration day.
Dear Mr. Phillips,
I was shocked to hear of the mass arrest of 230 people on inauguration day. While I recognize that some of the protesters engaged in vandalism, many of those arrested did not and some identified themselves as journalists and legal observers. At least six journalists and several legal observers now face charges of felony riot despite the fact that they identified themselves to law enforcement. Disturbingly, the police reports filed for most of the 230 people arrested contains identical language.
These charges will have a chilling effect on attempts to cover and observe protests and law enforcement throughout America. The arrests present a clear violation of freedom of the press and undermine efforts to ensure accountability of law enforcement personnel policing protests. I urge you to drop all charges against journalists and legal observers. Furthermore, I urge you to review all of the charges against protesters who were not directly involved in vandalism.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Ted Eytan