Activists, including whistleblower and Maryland US senate candidate Chelsea Manning, gathered today at Franklin Square in Washington DC to condemn the continued prosecution of 59 people arrested during Donald Trump’s Inauguration.

On January 20, 2017, 230 people were arrested during demonstrations against Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Of these initial arrestees, 215 were charged under the Federal Riot Statute. The prosecution argues that every protester should be guilty for all property damage that took place during the demonstration, whether the individuals charged committed the crimes personally or not. 

“We recognize this trial as what it is. It’s an attempt to literally criminalize dissent,” said Chip Gibbons, a reporter at Defending Rights & Dissent. “The prosecution in making their case has tried to turn journalism and protesting into elements of a criminal offense.”

“We are definitely hopeful about the show of support that’s been demonstrated over and over again throughout this entire space by the DC community,” added Sam Menefee-Libey of DC Legal Posse.

One trial group was acquitted of all charges on November 15, 2017, and the Attorney’s Office dismissed cases without prejudice against an additional 129 defendants on January 18, 2018 — but didn’t drop their charges, meaning they still face nearly 6 years of uncertainty since the prosecution can reinstate the charges during that time.

A remaining 59 people are being prosecuted with multiple felonies and face 60 years in prison.

“Protesting is not a crime, L12 should do no crime,” chanted Dylan Petrohilos. (L12 is a reference to the intersection of L Street and 12th Street in Washington, where the majority of the arrests took place).

“We’ve been continually seeing people getting charged with felony offenses for standing up and fighting back,” Manning said of activists during the Trump era. “This is not about the J20 defendants so much as it is about everyone’s ability and right to be able to fight back.”

“I’m not a politician. I’m an activist,” Manning told News2Share’s Ford Fischer after the rally. “We all have power, and that’s why I always stand in solidarity with protesters who try to make a difference in their own way. That’s where the real power is. It’s not in a ballot. It’s in our own political agency every day.”

Asked by another member of the press about her top priorities if she were elected, Manning replied, “Abolish Ice.”

Photos by Alejandro Alvarez: