Protesters arrested at Venezuelan Embassy appear in DC court

Four protesters who were arrested and removed from the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. on Thursday made their first court appearance Friday.

Kevin Bruce Zeese, 64, Margaret Ann Flowers, 57, Adrienne Pine, 49, and David Vernon Paul, 70, were arrested at the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown on a criminal complaint after participating in a month-long occupation of the diplomatic building, according to a Justice Department statement.

Activists with a group called CODEPINK began occupying the embassy on April 10. But after receiving a notice from American officials on Monday to leave the premises, only the four defendants remained inside the building, the DOJ said.

The four activists were arrested on a criminal complaint charging them with interfering the State Department’s protective functions by “knowingly and willingly obstructing, resisting, or interfering with a Federal law enforcement agent engaged, within the United States, in the performance of the protective functions of the State Department Basic Authorities Act.” 

At Friday’s hearing, Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey released all four defendants on various conditions. The next court date is set for June 12.

The maximum penalty for interfering with the protective functions of the State Department is one year in prison.

The embassy had been vacant since the beginning of this year when President Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

In January, Juan Guaido sent a letter to President Trump appointing Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.S.

On April 26, 2019, Vecchio sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Department of State requesting that law enforcement officials remove anyone on the premises of the Venezuelan Embassy not authorized to be there by the Venezuelan government.

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