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The feds tried to lock me up for life for reporting on the Trump inauguration protests 

Enemy of the people

Page 2 of 7

click to enlarge The limo fire, which became a symbol of resistance, happened after most of the arrests. - PHOTO BY MOBILUS IN MOBILI/PUBLIC DOMAIN
  • Photo by Mobilus In Mobili/Public Domain
  • The limo fire, which became a symbol of resistance, happened after most of the arrests.

In the end, it didn't matter whether I presented myself as a journalist on J20 or that I only carried a sandwich and a notebook; white supremacists wound up messing with me anyway for over a year afterward by working with authorities to prosecute and harass me. I pitched a dispatch soon after getting released from jail, but pulled it for legal concerns.

After 18 months, the actual memories of the half-hour march leading up to my arrest have mixed with dreams and nightmares of the day, as well as descriptions in multiple indictments, trial transcripts and media reports. My mind's eye remembers a dark funhouse of corporate buildings and unusually waifish, Jack Skellington-esque riot cops hemming me into a larger group. Everything looks gray and morose; it may have rained a bit. Police relentlessly deployed sting-ball grenades and pepper spray; the final tally was at least 70 grenades thrown at people blocks away from where Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president.

Creaks and shatters created by objects smashing glass, including the insured windows of a Bank of America branch and a Starbucks, are more memorable than any destruction my eyes may have seen. Very, very loud police sirens, punctuated by grenade explosions and screaming, overwhelm everything else. "The inappropriate and extensive use of less lethal munitions suggests the need for increased supervision of officers during mass demonstrations," said a recent report from the staid Police Foundation, which evaluated the Metropolitan Police Department's conduct at Inauguration Day protests.

Impossible to forget are the feelings throughout the march: The whole-body nerve rush when I first saw a huge mass of marching people extending at least a whole city block; the panic run as the sting-ball grenades burst near my feet; the euphoria of an ungovernable moment, however frightening and unpredictable, that disrupted the lawful monotony binding our violently unequal social system together; and the shock when I checked my phone from inside the mass arrest and saw that protests in D.C. had overtaken Trump's inaugural speech as the top headline on CNN.com. If protesters weren't able to stop the actual inauguration, they still marred it in history.

When the first six of over 200 defendants went to trial last November, prosecutors used expressions of apparent excitement, wonder or awe during the march as evidence of a conspiracy to riot. "I'm fucking blissed out," photojournalist and acquitted defendant Alexei Wood announced in a livestream from the march that day. The feds later tried to use it against him in court. In an identical indictment filed against all defendants, prosecutors also used randomly shouted phrases like "Fuck it up," "Fuck capitalism" and "Whose streets? Our streets!" to transform an adrenal impulse into a criminal covenant among riotous co-conspirators.

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