On January 20, 2017, over 200 people were detained, abused, and charged with false felonies while protesting the Trump regime’s inaugural rise to authoritarian rule. Those 200 people are now being used as pawns to prohibit political dissent within a system that regularly signals white terrorism should be the rule of law. Although no BYP100 DC members were detained and charged in this act of repression, we recognize that in this increasingly hostile political atmosphere, organizations like ours that directly confront fascist policies harming our communities can, and will, be on trial next. The trial of J20 defendants is an act of political persecution. BYP100 DC staunchly supports all J20 arrestees and calls for all charges to be dropped immediately.
No amount of property damage can equate to the damage the Trump regime is inflicting upon human lives. While the state claims to care about property damage and violence, it remains the largest perpetrator of violence against Black, brown, and indigenous communities in this country. Violence is the destruction of Black communities through the increased deportation of Black individuals. Violence is the gutting of the social safety net, cruel humanitarian inaction towards our Puerto Rican family in the wake of natural disaster, targeted federal policies against trans communities, and the expansion of the surveillance and carceral state. Violence is the Trump regime using the J20 trials to ban free speech while looking to increase the surveillance of citizens via an Extreme Vetting Initiative that will use artificial intelligence to determine who is a “good citizen.” Charging J20 defendants with rioting, five counts of property destruction, and 60+ years in prison is political persecution. It is violence.
If this regime successfully persecutes J20 defendants, then Black, undocumented, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities across the country will continue to see an increase in policies and agendas aimed at criminalizing Black political activity. We’ve already seen the rise of “Blue Lives Matter” laws and the coining of dangerous and racist terms such as “Black Identity Extremism.” BYP100 DC sees the J20 trial as movement toward expanding the legal framework to successfully prosecute Black people who dissent.
We know that the criminalization of dissent is not new. From J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI launching COINTELPRO, a covert action that ran from the 1950s until the 1970s and aimed to infiltrate and dismantle the Black Panther Party and other Black liberation groups; to the deadly war on terror under the Bush administration; to the high number of deportations under Obama, the resistance of Black, brown, and indigenous people is consistently attacked. Intimidation and silencing tactics have historically been used to terrorize Black people in DC, across the nation, and globe. The political persecution of J20 reminds us of the many ways the U.S. government has tried to destroy liberatory movements against authoritarian rule both here and abroad. We center the names of Gigi Thomas, Glo Merriweather, Ky Peterson, Merci Chrisette, Assata Shakur, Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin, Lucy Hicks Anderson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Simon Trinidad, Mutulu Shakur, “Sonia” aka Omaira Rojas Cabrera, David Gilbert, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Sundiata Acoli, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, Josh Williams, Rayquan Borum and everyone currently trapped in our violent prison industrial system. We must fight everyday to abolish cages and build a future that promotes the inherent value and dignity of all human beings.
Assata reminds us,
“This is not the time to feel depressed or defeated. This is not the time to forget about struggling, or to forget about all the sisters and brothers who have been railroaded into dungeons. Rather, it is the time to feel outraged, to feel determined, to fight against this government tooth and nail, not for what it is doing to me, but for what it is doing to us all.”
We must remain vigilant in our opposition to such authoritarian tactics. We must exist in support of one another. BYP100 DC remains in solidarity with all J20 arrestees.
— the DC Chapter of BYP100
To support J20, visit defendj20resistance.org to see how you can call for the immediate dropping of all charges. You can also donate to their legal fund. To learn more about how the state has historically criminalized dissent and resistance from Black, brown, queer, trans, and/or gender nonconforming people, please read the stories of Gigi Thomas, Glo Merriweather, Ky Peterson, Merci Chrisette, Assata Shakur, Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin, Lucy Hicks Anderson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Simon Trinidad, Mutulu Shakur, "Sonia" aka Omaira Rojas Cabrera, David Gilbert, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Sundiata Acoli, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, Josh Williams, and Rayquan Borum.