According to the Department of Justice, over 300 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in 29 states face federal charges as of September. Some are accused of terrorism, others could receive life in prison. Legal experts say the number of charges against demonstrators and their severity is unprecedented.
In numerous cases, crimes normally handled by local courts are being pursued in federal courts, where penalties are more severe. Bail is routinely denied. Egged on by Trump and Attorney General Barr, this arctic chill on the right to assemble focuses on radicals and BLM organizers, many of whom are young people of color. These activists deserve community support.
For instance, using intelligence gathered from social media, photos and a phone call, Denver-area police arrested six BLM organizers in September. Four are with the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and another is with the Front Line Party for Revolutionary Action.
Slapped with numerous felonies including kidnapping (!), they face the threat of decades in prison stemming from summer rallies for Elijah McClain, killed in 2019 with a chokehold by Aurora police. Visit PSL’s website to support the activists.
In Brooklyn, New York, two young lawyers are looking at 45 years to life for allegedly tossing a Molotov cocktail into an empty, burned-out cop car. Colinford Mattis, a Black man with Caribbean immigrant parents, and Urooj Rahman, a Pakistani American Muslim woman, were charged in federal court with arson and denied bail. These lawyers were undoubtedly targeted for their race, religion and activism.
Dozens of civil liberties organizations, including the American Muslim Bar Association and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have demanded the pair be allowed bail and have decried the misuse of federal charges. Help show solidarity by donating to Colinford Mattis’s or Urooj Rahman’s support funds.
In Portland, Oregon, militants have been particularly targeted by the Trump administration. As of August, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Oregon has charged 74 with felonies for acts normally considered misdemeanors, like failure to disperse. At summer’s end, the Oregon FBI said they were shifting their priority to BLM protests and the Justice Department launched a criminal inquiry into the leadership and financing of demos. But Portlanders refuse to be intimidated. Get more info at IWW’s General Defense Committee website.
Check out your neighborhood for some of the dozens of cases making their way through the “injustice” system. Solidarity is the key!