Sept. 15 arrestees win at trial

Sept. 15 arrestees win at trial
Government case collapses during trial  -- judge dismisses all charges

Sept. 15 Capitol police
Photo: Sharat G. Lin
An important victory was won yesterday, January 3, in the case of 11 defendants who were arrested at the Sept. 15 March on the Capitol, which drew 100,000 anti-war protestors to Washington, DC.

Judge Henry Greene of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia dismissed all charges against the defendants, who were accused of crossing a police line. The government's case collapsed in the early stages of the trial during the the testimony of a witness from the Capitol Police.

The protestors asserted that the government and the Capitol Police had illegally and unconstitutionally sought to prevent demonstrators from engaging in First Amendment protected speech and assembly in an area in front of the Capitol building routinely kept open to tourists and others. This attempt to exclude people engaging in free speech activities could not form the basis for a lawful arrest or conviction for "crossing a police line."

The government's case disintegrated as protestors' attorneys demonstrated that the government had withheld key evidence from the defense.

Under pressure from the defense, the government revealed that they had withheld documents and material that was central to the defendants' challenge to the government's efforts to prevent demonstrators from exercising their First Amendment rights at Congress under the pretext of "national security," including a "police sensitive" document supposedly related to "terrorism."  The defense argued that the government was using this pretext to prevent antiwar protest at a time when General David Petraeus was making the Bush administration's case that Congress should continue to fund the Iraq war.

Many of the defendants represented themselves and were given pro bono legal counsel and advice from attorneys Michael Madden, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, Stephanie Snyder of the Georgetown Criminal Justice Clinic, and Harriet Adams. The defendants, including leaders from Veterans for Peace, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), and Iraq Veterans Against the War, were Elliot Adams, Brian Becker, Ellen Barfield, Carla Boccella, Adam Kokesh, Jay Gillen, Rodney Centeno, Polly Miller, Sholom Keller, Shawn Peterson, and Rich Reinhart.

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is organizing antiwar activities and other actions in defense of First Amendment rights across the country. We cannot continue this work without your help. Please make an urgently needed donation right now by clicking this link.

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