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Jan 18, 21

Love For All Who Resist: A #J20 Reader

Elizabeth King looks back at the J20 case and the surrounding campaign to defeat an onslaught of felony charges.

by Elizabeth King

January 20, 2021, marks four years since Donald Trump was sworn into office as president of the United States. On that day, hundreds of militants—many of them anarchists—participated in a militant direct action protest of the inauguration, a show of resistance to Trump’s regime at its inception.

The protest, part of a broader set of events called #DisruptJ20 by organizers, quickly became infamous. On the day of Trump’s inauguration and the following days, the country was obsessed with photos from and reports about the militant protest. The press, like the police, were particularly concerned with a number of windows that had been smashed during the protest (poor Starbucks!), as well as a number of fires (including the infamous “burning limo”) from subsequent protests that continued while the marchers were kettled.

Arrests that day were probably inevitable, but the mass arrests and severe, blanket charging came as a surprise. Protests are ubiquitous in the nation’s capital for obvious reasons, and in general, protesters are not met with hefty charges if they break the relatively lax protest laws in the District. For the J20 participants who were kettled and then arrested by police though, the charges were serious, with many of the approximately 200 people arrested ultimately facing prison time of 75 years. Many faced felonies and even more were slapped with misdemeanor charges.

During the preliminary proceedings, before the trials against the defendants had started, a small number pleaded guilty to some charges. 180 defendants languished in the legal process for around a year, with 59 facing charges through July of 2018. Eventually, as a result of repeated prosecutorial failure and sanctions for official misconduct​​​​​​​, all charges against defendants who were tried or set to be tried in small, separate groups were dropped.

There are any number of lessons we can learn from J20: from the event itself, to the crackdown, and the community response to the repression of the arrested militants. This non-exhaustive, non-definitive collection of (approximately) 20 articles, essays, and other audio and visual media from the march itself through all remaining charges being dropped is meant to help us remember and reflect on J20, and to acknowledge the work of independent journalists and writers, including the defendants themselves, to chronicle these events.

The following pieces are listed roughly in chronological order, and this list is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive.

1. On The Ground at the Anti-Inauguration Riots, Ash Jegroo for MASK magazine

2. Reflections on #J20 A Week Into Trump’s America, El Barto on Medium

3. The J20 Raid And the Trump Protest That Never Ended, Malcolm Harris for Pacific Standard

4. The Whimper of Democracy, Maximillian Alvarez for The Baffler

5. “It’s a Police-State Mentality”:  J20 And the Racist Origins of Criminalizing Protest, Sam Adler-Bell for MASK magazine

6. I could face prison for protesting. A man who sexually abused a hotel worker got a $50 fine., Erin Lemkey for the Washington Post

7. Know Your Rights, Natasha Lennard for The New Inquiry

8. The J20 Case: What You Need to Know, Anarchist Agency on It’s Going Down

9. Inside the J20 Prosecution: How the Feds Are Criminalizing Dissent, Elizabeth King for Pacific Standard

10. The Strange Saga of Arrested Inauguration Protesters’ Seized Property, Siobhan O’Leary for Vice

11. US J20 Defendants: ‘Waiting is Part of the Punishment’, Patrick Strickland for Al Jazeera English

12. Prosecutors Invoke Union Membership to Criminalize Inauguration Day Protesters, Siobhan O’Leary and Elizabeth King for Shadowproof

13. Cop Who Wore Pro-Police Brutality T-Shirt At J20 Trial Was Previously Accused of Police Brutality, Sam Adler-Bell for The Intercept

14. US Attorney Drops Remaining Trump Inauguration Protest Charges, Unicorn Riot

15. I Was A Defendant in an Inauguration Day Protest. I Got Off. That’s Justice. Elizabeth Lagesse for the Washington Post

16. Conspiracy to Riot: The Case of the J20 Resistance, Sub.Media

17. I Was A J20 Street Medic and Defendant, anonymous for Crimethinc

18. We’ve Got Your Back: The Story of the J20 Defense, Crimethinc

19. J20 Protest Simulator, from Crimethinc

20. Now That Was A Riot!: Social Control in Felonious Times, Michael Loadenthal in Global Society (Routledge)

For audio reporting on the case against the J20 defendants, check out the #DropJ20 Podcast, on It’s Going Down

Compiled by Elizabeth King for the 4 year/ first presidential inaugural anniversary of #DisruptJ20.

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