By Coco Das |
Two vitally important trials recently ended in hung juries. This means that some members of the jury, after exhaustive deliberations, refused to give the prosecution the unanimous verdict they needed in order to convict. In both of these cases, the government brought charges that show a determination to squash dissent and criminalize human decency. They were thwarted – for now – by both the compelling arguments of the defense and by jurors who managed to hold on to their humanity. And of course, by the defiant courageous stand of the unjustly accused defendants who took the risk of going to trial and refused to back down from their principles.
We should celebrate these heroes, publicize these cases, and stand with anyone willing to stand up to forces that are hell-bent on codifying the cruelty of the fascist Trump/Pence regime.
On June 28th, a mistrial was declared in the case against two Refuse Fascism and Revolution Club members who were part of two separate groups that shut down the 101 freeway in Los Angeles with a 50-foot banner demanding the Trump/Pence regime must go in late 2017. Back in 2017, when these protesters put their bodies on the line on the LA Freeway, they were calling on people to join them in driving out a regime that is now running concentration camps at the border where people are suffering torturous conditions.
Though the prosecution went to extreme lengths to frame this freeway protest as a traffic issue and suppress, inside or outside the courthouse, anything that exposed the real issues, a few jurors remained clear-headed about the moral implications of their decision. They listened to the defense lawyer’s closing arguments and recognized that the case was really about the most important question of our time – what are we going to do to stop a fascist regime from destroying millions of lives, if not the planet itself?
A few weeks earlier, on June 11th, the felony case against Scott Warren of No Más Muertes/No More Deaths also ended in a hung jury and mistrial. No Más Muertes provides humanitarian aid to people making the desperate and dangerous journeys across the Arizona desert. Warren faced charges of harboring and conspiracy for giving aid and water to migrants, essentially for saving their lives. While four were sucked into the jingoistic “law and order” arguments of the prosecution, a majority of jurors favored acquittal.
These cases tell us a lot. They show us the kind of depraved society fascists want to cement into place. A society were people turn their backs on fellow human beings and let them die. A society where people bow their heads in obedience instead of standing up for what’s right. A society where even good people adjust to a culture of genocidal lunacy.
They also demonstrate how polarized our society is on questions of basic human decency. These mistrials are fragile, temporary victories that were righteously and fiercely fought for. Both of these cases should have ended in acquittals, but they were instead highly contentious. The very value of a human life is being debated. Whether we should let children live or die is being debated. Whether people should be forced to endure torturous deaths in our name is being debated. If we don’t drive this fascist regime out of power, is it only a matter of time before the side with more guns, more laws, more police, and more military might wins that debate?
At the same time, these hung juries point to a real dynamic, that millions of people can be compelled to act on their conscience instead of finding peace with the unacceptable. When people are confronted with the moral weight of their action or inaction, when they wake up to the reality of what their government is doing in their names, when they see that the normal channels – the courts, elections, Congress – have not stopped these horrors or worse, have enabled them – and when they are presented with a choice to allow this to continue or stand up against it, many thousands will make the right choice, and they can further compel millions to join them.
The state will not stop trying to repress and criminalize acts of resistance. On two consecutive days, prosecutors announced retrials for both of these cases. It makes a difference for people to pay attention to these cases now and demand that prosecutors drop all the changes. It matters that people send in statements of support for the defendants. No one can sit this one out and expect that the consequences of inaction won’t bring a more brutal world into being.
So let’s give a mighty salute to the defendants in these trials who risked their own freedom, and to the jurors who drew a line of defense against the government’s persecutions of their heroic actions. They are on the right side of history. Will you be?
Coco Das (@coco_das) is a contributing editor to RefuseFascism.org