Friday, January 19, 2018 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco—After a yearlong legal saga, criminal charges were dismissed Thursday against 11 people arrested after linking themselves together on the Caltrain tracks during an inauguration day protest, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
The J20 protestors faced three misdemeanor charges following their Jan. 20, 2016 arrests on the train tracks at 16th and Mississippi streets: trespassing on rail transit property, trespassing/entering without permission and refusal to disperse at a riot.
A trial had been set for March 13 and was vacated when prosecutors dropped the charges, said Deputy Public Defender Tenette Smith, who represented one of the protestors.
Though the 11 protestors were represented individually through separate attorneys, they released the following statement as a group:
“We decided to go to trial instead of taking any deals or diversions, because solidarity doesn’t end with putting our bodies on the line—we also need to leverage our privilege in the (in)justice system. We refused to be intimidated by threats and manipulations of the state, and we encourage people to take a stand and be unafraid. We can win, we have won, and we will continue to fight until justice emerges.”
Over the last year, supporters of the J20 called upon San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to drop charges against the local activists, arguing that the city should dedicate its resources to protecting residents most vulnerable under the Trump Administration rather than squandering them by criminalizing dissent.
On Thursday, Chief Assistant District Attorney Sharon Woo appeared in court and announced her office could not justify the prosecution and court resources that were being expended in the case.
Adachi said he was grateful San Francisco District Attorney Gascón did the right thing and dropped the case.
“Nonviolent resistance has a long and heroic history. Criminalizing it has a chilling effect on dissent,” Adachi said.