Four Noteworthy Facts about the Freeway Protests:
 Los Angeles authorities waited almost a year to press charges. When eight activists were arrested during the two separate civil disobedience actions on the 101 freeway in September and November of 2017, the LA city attorney declined to press charges. Eleven months later, just before the deadline to file charges, the city attorney charged these activists with obstruction of free movement, failure to disperse and failure to comply with police. If convicted, they face as many as three years in jail and $2,000 in fines.
 The city additionally charged two RF leaders with “conspiracy,” then later indicated they intend to drop this charge in order to conceal the extent of their political spying. In late July/early August 2018, the LA city attorney singled out two leaders of RefuseFascism LA—USC Professor Perry Hoberman and Michelle Xai, LA Refuse Fascism leader—for charges of conspiracy. Michelle Xai hadn’t even been on the freeway or arrested during either of the actions! Michelle is also charged with two counts of obstruction of movement. Revealingly, in December 2018, the LA city attorney indicated they intended to drop these conspiracy charges to avoid complying with a judge’s order to disclose the identity of their “confidential informant” and turn over the actual audio recordings made by the informant.
 The LAPD secretly spied on Refuse Fascism and an informant illegally recorded activists. In an act of politically motivated state repression, the LAPD’s “Major/Crimes/Anti-Terrorism Division” sent a “confidential informant” into Refuse Fascism to surreptitiously and illegally record private conversations and meetings on at least four occasions. In California, it is illegal to record someone without their consent!
 Even the DA’s office admits that the First Amendment is involved in this case. The detective writing the police report admits to having consulted with the district attorney with a request to file felony conspiracy charges (vs. misdemeanors, which they are facing). The DA said that felony charges would be “contrary to the spirit of the law where First Amendment freedoms are concerned.” So how are misdemeanor charges any less “contrary” to their First Amendment rights?!
For over two years, RefuseFascism.org (RF) has worked tirelessly to arouse the millions in this country who hate and fear what this regime is doing to break out of politics-as-usual—organizing people and organizations from a diverse range of political views behind the single unifying demand: This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!
For this, RefuseFascism.org has been hit with heavy political repression from the state. Twelve members of Refuse Fascism, some of whom are also members of the Revolution Club, currently face criminal charges. One, in Chicago, faces up to seven years in prison for engaging in nonviolent political protest.
For 11 of these individuals, charges stem from two separate nonviolent civil disobedience actions which blocked traffic on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles, and from nonviolent speech during an appearance of Steve Mnuchin at UCLA. Viral video of these different protests has been seen by millions (LA freeway protests here and here; Mnuchin protest here, here, and here).
For many months—in some cases for nearly a full year — these activists were not charged with any crime at all. Then suddenly, within just a few weeks and just before the clock ran out on the time frame to indict, the LA city attorney hit activists from these different protests—which took place months apart—with heavy criminal charges. Key leaders were charged for actions they either hadn’t been arrested for or hadn’t even taken part in!
In addition to bringing a range of criminal charges against those who participated in the civil disobedience on the freeway, the city attorney also filed misdemeanor charges of “criminal conspiracy” against two of the leaders of Refuse Fascism, Michelle Xai and Perry Hoberman.
Historically, conspiracy charges have been used to go after political leaders and amount to making it illegal to be part of organizing—or sometimes even discussing—a political protest beforehand.
In an important victory, the state was forced to drop the conspiracy charges. However, the fact that these charges were being prosecuted further highlights the political nature of these attacks. One of the ATD reports shows that they wanted to file FELONY conspiracy charges and contacted the LA County District Attorney’s Office (which is responsible for prosecuting felony cases) about this. The ATD detective concluded that “using a misdemeanor offense of Criminal Trespass to charge a felony Conspiracy is contrary to the spirit of the law where First Amendment freedoms are concerned. For this reason, I would ask that the Criminal Conspiracy be charged only as a misdemeanor.”
By the LAPD’s own admission, the freeway actions were First Amendment-protected political acts. So how are misdemeanor conspiracy charges any less contrary to the right to political protest than felony conspiracy charges? This is bullshit. While there is a difference in penalty, First Amendment freedoms are supposed to be protected, not criminally prosecuted on any level!
There was no justification for these bogus charges in anything the state has provided except for the fact that Michelle and Perry are well-known leaders of Refuse Fascism. This is why they were singled out—and in its report, the state has basically said as much.
Michelle and Perry’s lawyer demanded that the LAPD turn over information about the informant, including his identity so he could be called as a witness in the cases. The court agreed and ordered that these files be turned over. Instead of complying with the court’s order—which would uncover more details about this informant and the level of political surveillance—the city attorney dropped the conspiracy charges against Perry and Michelle!
While this is an important victory, the other defendants are demanding that this information be turned over as it is essential to all these cases.
Illegal Police Surveillance
It has further come to light that the Los Angeles Police Department sent a police informant into Refuse Fascism who surreptitiously and illegally recorded activists. UCLA police systematically surveilled and filmed members of the Revolution Club for weeks leading up to the brutal arrests of their members on February 26, 2018.
The arrests and legal persecution of these freedom fighters are unjust and illegitimate. With a fascist regime in power, tearing up what are supposed to be protected civil and legal rights, and ruling through increasingly open terror and violence, these protests were needed and they were right. They were meaningful forms of nonviolent civil disobedience and, on a changing political and legal ground, forms of what is supposed to be protected speech!
As longtime American-Salvadoran and immigrant rights activist Isabel Cardenas has written: “If more Germans and Jews in Nazi Germany had done what these defendants have done (and are doing), millions of lives could have been saved. This country needs people such as those who have been criminally charged so that those who have no voice may have someone with the courage to defend them. They are striving to save us all from THE TRUMP-PENCE NIGHTMARE so that we—billions of us on the planet earth, including millions of Immigrants who helped to build this country—may stop enduring the madness that goes on in the White House.”
The political persecution of these freedom fighters involves an escalation of the criminalization of political protests and a leap in state repression, which is a key element of the very fascism these activists are fighting.
We call on everyone who values the right to speak critically of the government and to mobilize political protest aimed at stopping the nightmare of the Trump/Pence regime to join in demanding: STOP THE POLITICAL PERSECUTION AND DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST REFUSE FASCISM ACTIVISTS!
We further call on everyone to heed the challenge and example of these courageous activists and join the movement to drive out the fascist Trump/Pence regime regime.