24 torture activists beat unlawful assembly charge

posted by Mike on June 14th, 2010

Saying that “In my opinion, the defendants were not properly charged in this case,” D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan today acquitted 24 activists of unlawful assembly in connection with civil disobedience this past January 21 at the U.S. Capitol.

Happy defendants Mark Colville and Paul Thorson

(Related: AP: Anti-torture activists arrested at US Capitol acquitted at trial)

In coordinated protests against America’s continuing policies of indefinite detention at the Guantanamo prison, some of the activists had stood on the Capitol steps dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods, many wearing the names of current detainees cleared for release on their backs, holding signs reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Other activists had gone into the Capitol Rotunda, where presidents lay in state, to hold a memorial service for three detainees who died at Guantanamo in the spot in the Rotunda where presidents lay in state.

Defendants George Purvis and Kathy Kelly celebrate

Judge Canan found that the prosecution had not proved the charges of unlawful assembly filed against the defendants, while suggesting that charges of “unlawful entry” or “disrupting Congress” might have been appropriate.

Carmen arrested
Carmen Trotta arrested inside Capitol Rotunda, January 21, 2010. Capitol Police photo.

To this observer, the judge seemed to bend over backwards to find fault with the charges filed. Lawyer Bill Quigley, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and an advisor to the defendants, said, “In my opinion, the judge found a way to validate the spirit of the protestors, and their struggle against the injustice of Guantanamo.”

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