News2Share editor-in-chief Ford Fischer was in the courtroom today for the first day of trial for people arrested on inauguration day (January 20th). Cameras and other electronics were not in the courtroom, so the following is an edited transcript of notes taken by hand in the courtroom. It should be considered a rough summary and has not been compared to a transcript. This was originally posted on Facebook as a status.

MPD on J20
Photo by Alejandro Alvarez

Since cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom today for the beginning of the J20 trials (the first 6 defendants as a group), I wanted to share my notes from the day:

Prosecutors acknowledge that they don’t have evidence showing any of these defendants personally doing any of the things they’re charged with, but they say they don’t have to. The charges are based on the notion of collective guilt and conspiracy. In a sea of uniformly dressed and masked rioters, one is guilty of property damage or assaulting a cop even if they didn’t throw the brick or rock that caused it.

One journalist, two medics (one who is a nurse in her day job) and three alleged protesters each face 60 years in prison. The defense’s opening statements essentially all claimed something like “in this trial, you’ll see that people did bad things, but there’s no evidence my client did any of them.”

Alexei Wood (the journalist)’s attorney pointed out that prosecuting his client on the basis of recording and saying commentary that was unfavorable to the government is particularly egregious, and added that “the government has is cell phone and everything on it, and they still have nothing.” He used the phrase “disagreeable is not illegal” to hammer down the point that the government is prosecuting someone for not liking what they report.

The nurse’s attorney said that the government will keep trying to paint them as “a group” but her client will be found not guilty as an individual.

The first government witness was an Au Bon Pain manager whose restaurant window got busted. Protesters did $5790.40 of damage to his business, but none of his testimony or video incriminated any defendants. Alexei was seen outside as the damage was taking place. Camera in one hand, phone livestreaming in the other.

After, with the jury out of the room, the prosecutor argued that the specifics of an ACLU case shouldn’t be allowed to be discussed. There are allegations that police sexually assaulted arrestees, and the jury shouldn’t be allowed to hear that because it allegedly happened after the arrest, the state says. Judge agreed.

Finally a uniformed cop took the stand. Officer Ashley Anderson, who was assigned to a civil disturbance bike unit, was in a squad of eight. She testified that while she personally witnessed property damage and had a rock thrown at her, they didn’t arrest individual perps because they lacked manpower. She described feeling “helpless.” They then played the bodycam video of her would-be injury.

In an incredibly bizarre exchange, the government asked whether she had her firearm with her then. She said yes. They asked why she didn’t use it. She said that her “service weapon would not be appropriate because we don’t fire into crowds of people.”

The judge released the jury until morning. Before adjourning, she described three words the court needs to define for the jury: “antifa, anarchist, and black bloc.” I have a feeling the activist community’s definition for these words will be different from the government’s.

After the session adjourned, Fischer ran a livestream with Chip Gibbons of Defending Rights & Dissent and National Lawyers Guild‘s Kris Hermes to get their take on the case so far.