Arizona Prosecutors Pretend 'ACAB' Is Gang Lingo To Hit Protesters With Felony Gang Charges

from the it-appears-at-least-some-of-these-cops-are-bastards-tho dept

This is how the law enforcement community has responded to nationwide complaints that they do their jobs poorly, violently, and abusively: by doing their jobs poorly, violently, and abusively.

The killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer set off anti-police brutality protests across the nation. These protests were met with more police violence, with some of the violence singling out journalists, protesters, and legal observers. Things have since calmed down, but each new instance of police violence tends to result in another set of protests. Cops have proven they can’t stop killing people or violating their rights so this cycle will continue in perpetuity.

Since it’s impossible to calm the police down, it appears prosecutors and law enforcement agencies are shifting their focus into inflicting maximum pain on those exercising First Amendment rights. A truly ridiculous response to a recent protest in Arizona shows just how far the government is willing to go to stifle dissent. Maybe the ultimate goal isn’t to end protests, but the end result of this Phoenix protest shows local law enforcement is willing to put their credibility on the line to punish citizens for being unhappy with the status quo.

On Oct. 17, about 20 people gathered in downtown Phoenix to march for justice for victims of police violence. The group was made up mostly of young people, including three 17-year-olds, an honors student from Arizona State University, and a Harvard student. The group marched down the streets of Phoenix chanting “Black lives matter.” Some of the protesters moved traffic cones and signs into the middle of the street. Some carried umbrellas, which protesters have used to protect themselves from tear gas and projectiles.

Eventually, police officers donning helmets and bulletproof vests closed in on the group. With a weapon drawn, an officer told them to get on the ground, which they did. Police ripped away the umbrellas. Dozens of officers surrounded the protesters, video footage shows. Police handcuffed the kneeling protesters, yanked them to their feet, and put them in the back of cruisers. Police used pepper bullets on at least one of the protesters.

This is only part of the disproportionate response. The major damage came after the arrests, when prosecutors added felony gang charges. Here’s what prosecutors offered in support of these charges.

The street gang charges are based on the group’s common use of the phrase “all cops are bastards,” the fact they all dress in black, and carry umbrellas.

Police testified the group used the umbrellas to attack officers, conceal their activities, and further their criminal activities.

In essence, prosecutors are claiming “ACAB” is a gang. The acronym used by plenty of people who don’t know or associate with each other is being presented as evidence of gang affiliation or activity. Depending on what specifics accompany these charges (whether its “participation” or merely “assisting”), these sentence enhancements can add up to ten years in prison to whatever else the protesters are convicted of. As The Appeal’s report points out, one protester is being charged with felony aggravated assault of a police officer for allegedly digging his nails into the officer’s thumb while being arrested.

And the Maricopa county prosecutor’s office has continued to double-down on this brutal stupidity. It has refused to directly address the ridiculousness of pretending ACAB is a gang call sign and instead keep pointing people to its asterisk:

On October 27, 2020, a Maricopa County Grand Jury issued indictments on fifteen individuals for incidents that occurred on October 17, 2020. The indictment is for several crimes, including conspiracy to commit assault, riot, and assisting a criminal street gang. The attached Grand Jury Indictment outlines all charges.

While some will attempt to describe these defendants as “protestors,” a grand jury found probable cause to *charge this group with crimes, including the planning of violence.

It’s just an accusation, folks.

*A charge in a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

See? Nothing stupid or politically-charged about turning BLM protesters carrying umbrellas into a street gang for indictment purposes.

A few months down the road and these charges remain on the books. Nothing has changed. The prosecutors are offering plea deals, but the “deals” involve pleading guilty to something that simply isn’t true:

According to an attorney familiar with the case, the plea requires the defendants to plead guilty to two felony offenses, including the street gang charge.

Unlike some of the other charges the protesters are facing, these charges can’t be expunged or downgraded to misdemeanors. This is permanent. And it’s only there because cops and prosecutors found a handy way to severely punish people who are already unhappy with the actions of cops and prosecutors. There’s nothing in here that’s going to close the divide between these public servants and the people they serve. This is Maricopa law enforcement showing residents they’re exactly who the residents thought they were: petty, vindictive people with far too much power.

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Comments on “Arizona Prosecutors Pretend 'ACAB' Is Gang Lingo To Hit Protesters With Felony Gang Charges”

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21 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Way to prove them right

Because nothing is going to make people less angry with police and the legal system that protects them like rampant and open abuse of the legal system to inflict as much suffering as possible on anyone who dares point out how corrupt the police and the legal system have become.

If they are trying to escalate tensions and distrust between the public and the police then they are doing an excellent job of it, if that’s not the goal however then everyone involved needs to be fired immediately as not just incompetent but actively harmful to the public and the agencies they are working at.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This. Deprivation of rights using official authority to do so while in possession of a firearm is a federal felony (18 USC 242, 18 USC 924). If dressing alike, carrying the same weapons and identifying with the same group while breaking the law in any way makes you a criminal gang, then thpse cops are gang members without question.

For that matter, it’s also a felony (18 USC 241) for a court to conspire to violate people’s rights, which is what charging someone with a felony, the judge not dismissing the obvious retaliation against exercise of rights and even a correctional officer imprisoning someone found guilty of exercise of rights would be.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This. Deprivation of rights using official authority to do so while in possession of a firearm is a federal felony (18 USC 242, 18 USC 924). If dressing alike, carrying the same weapons and identifying with the same group while breaking the law in any way makes you a criminal gang, then thpse cops are gang members without question.

For that matter, it’s also a felony (18 USC 241) for a court to conspire to violate people’s rights, which is what charging someone with a felony, the judge not dismissing the obvious retaliation against exercise of rights and even a correctional officer imprisoning someone found guilty of exercise of rights would be.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

If this stands, it will end up being a tactic used to punish any protest against our government. Every protest I have ever heard of (On the left and the right) has common slogans, chants, and phrases. It helps with spreading the message. Has nothing to do with gang activity.
I have no sympathy for people who riot, vandalize property, or even trespass as part of their protest. And those who do should be prosecuted for those crimes specifically, but people who protest peacefully should not be punished simply because rioters happened to use the same slogans.

Paul B says:

Re: Re:

What stops the person charged with simply saying "First Amendment" in response to the charge. Protests are protected, people doing stupid things at protests can still only come back on the dumb person, and i’m fairly sure attempts to charge the organizer of the protest for the actions of dumb protesters also failed.

What we have here is a clear case that might get a republican judge favorable to AZ to agree with the charge but the appeals court can quickly toss the charges on the grounds that nothing quoted is actully illegal activity.

The only reason this is an issue is because prosecutors can more or less hold you on pending charges for ages as they offer "An Easy way out".

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You seem to have answered your own question there. There’s nothing stopping a defendant from claiming the first amendment covers their speech, but that’s only going to do them any good if they’ve got the money to defend themselves long enough for that to matter.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Need to point out...

…This is Maricopa County, the same one that voted Sheriff Joe Arpaio in for 24 years straight.

The most damning quote I know of for that county is this: "He later claimed that the ‘concentration camp’ remark had been a joke, pointing out: ‘What difference does it make? I still survived. I still kept getting re-elected.’"

(Obviously there are far worse quotes for Arpaio, but he wasn’t a Phoenix cop.)

Upstream (profile) says:

Likely to get worse

If the Harris / Biden / Pelosi / Schumer team get their way and pass some kind of "Domestic Terrorism" law, this kind of thing will quickly become commonplace, but instead of merely being accused of multiple felonies, these people will be accused of being terrorists. In addition to wrong-speak being severely criminalized, wrong-write and wrong-think will come under serious attack also. I doubt the attacks will be limited to those who criticize the police, either. Political dissent and criticism will also become "domestic terrorism," or possibly incitement, treason or sedition.

Just as the War on Terror has been disastrous abroad, it will be an even worse disaster when it is targeted at us.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

In addition to wrong-speak being severely criminalized, wrong-write and wrong-think will come under serious attack also.

Need I remind you that the previous president literally tried to threaten, intimidate, and punish his critics in the media so they would practically-sucking-his-dick flatter him instead? So far, I’ve seen no indications that the Biden administration wants to do any of that, never mind “criminalizing” it.

Anonymous Coward says:

how many times has it been said that there is nothing more important to law enforcement than arresting people, regardless of whether thos arrested have done anything wrong or whether there is justification in the arrest. it’s also been said multiple times that there is nothing more important to the prosecutors than getting a win, even if that win is enforced through threats of further charges that are not true, just to back up the original charges that weren’t true anyway. making people take pleas when they have broken the law, haven’t done anything wrong is pathetic and these are the ones who should be prosecuted! trouble is though, the way the country has changed so that the Constitution is being erroded more and more, that citizens rights are being ignored or overruled and the only important thing is throwing ever more people into prison, guilty or innocent!

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