NEW YORK—A jury in the District of Columbia today found six of the almost 200 protesters charged in connection with inauguration day protests not guilty on all counts. The verdict is a welcome affirmation of the importance of free expression following repeated attacks on the First Amendment by the Trump administration. The trial was the first of the so-called “J20 protesters,” the vast majority of whom peacefully protested the inauguration of President Trump this past January in the District. A handful of protesters damaged property, but District police rounded up and arrested en masse almost 200 marchers. Prosecutors have charged these protesters with various crimes despite acknowledging in this case that the evidence would not show that the defendants personally engaged in any property destruction.

“This is a welcome development, but it underscores that these arrests and prosecutions never should have happened in the first place,” said Gabe Rottman, PEN America Washington director. “Several defendants had to leave their jobs and move to DC to defend their First Amendment rights against prosecutors who basically argued that if you’re in a protest with a few bad apples, they’ll literally read you the riot act. It’s time to drop the rest of these charges.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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