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