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Closing arguments in Inauguration Day protest trial: Medic with first aid kit not a rioter

In the wake of mass arrests during President Trump's inauguration, but not a single jury conviction, D.C.'s police chief says the District should consider tweaking its rioting law. (File, WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON — The lawyer for one of six protesters arrested during riots in D.C. on the morning that President Donald Trump was sworn into office told jurors that the prosecution “is about politics — we know who they report to.”

Sara Kropf, defense attorney for Britne Lawson, gave the second-to last closing argument for the six defendants, who were arrested on Jan. 20.

Kropf said Lawson was at the protest as a street medic.

“According to the government, showing up with a fanny pack with Band Aids in it is equivalent to the people who smashed the Starbucks window,” said Kropf. “The government is treating everyone the same.”

The jury deliberated for a short period Friday afternoon before being dismissed for the weekend. Deliberations will resume Monday.

Lawson and the other defendants have argued that prosecutors are overreaching by charging each with the felonies of engaging in a riot, conspiracy to riot, and property damage.

Prosecutors Jennifer Kerkhoff and Rizwan Quereshi have acknowledged that the six people on trial did not personally break windows nor cause more than $100,000 in property damage.

However, prosecutors told jurors that by wearing black, covering their faces and cheering on destruction of property and injuries to law enforcement officers, the six defendants were guilty of rioting.

Kropf and several other attorneys have said the prosecution is an attack on the First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

“No matter your politics, the First Amendment is a right we all enjoy,” said defense attorney Jaime Heine, representing Michelle Macchio.

“There’s no evidence Ms. Macchio rioted. Wearing the color black is not enough. Being anti-fascist is not enough. Being anti-Trump is not enough,” Heine said.

“Today happens to be the 226th anniversary of the ratification of the First Amendment,” Kropf said.

“If these folks are found guilty, we may not have protests any more,” said Kropf. “Silence is dangerous.”

Prosecutors objected to the suggestion that a guilty verdict could end future protests. After a meeting at the bench, D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz reminded jurors they should limit their considerations to the charges facing the six defendants on trial.

More than 200 protesters were arrested on Jan. 20. About 20 have pleaded guilty, and prosecutors have dropped charges in almost two dozen cases.

The remaining protesters will be put on trial in groups of five or six, over the next year.


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