Victory! All Criminal Charges Dismissed Against the Refuse Fascism Protesters who took action in Los Angeles on the 101 Freeway in 2017 Demanding The Trump Pence Regime Must Go!
6/25/2020 Press Conference, Los Angeles City Hall:
25 June 2020 Press Release
Refuse Fascism, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Refuse Fascism: 323 946-1742
For interviews call: Mari Matsuoka at 323 574-3997
VIDEO OF PRESS CONFERENCE AVAILABLE AT tinyurl.com/yabxxzj6
STATEMENTS MADE AT 6/25/2020 PRESS CONFERENCE by Attorneys, Paul Garcia, Michale Plaut, Christopher T. Armen, Colleen Flynn by Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyer’s Guild, Stephen Rohde, First Amendment Advocate, Dorothy Reik, and Isabel Cardenas, long time Immigrant Rights activist
From Paul Garcia, Attorney representing Miguel Hernandez (“Alex”)
Fellow Members of the Los Angeles City and Los Angeles
This week the Los Angeles City Attorney dismissed cases known as the “Freeway Cases” regarding protests that occurred in 2017. Inclusive members of our community of all ages, all races, all walks of life and every economic standing banded together to oppose the current occupant of the White House (Trump) as an evil divider of not just our community but all of America.
They banded together as a nonviolent protest group called Refuse Fascism to oppose the fascist ideas and actions of Trump. The urgency of his evil–urging violence, placing children in cages, threatening foreign countries with war and calling them “shit hole countries”, supporting white supremacist hate and violence, changing laws to restrict freedoms and, at the same time, removing restrictions on big business to pollute the environment, constantly lying, and the list goes on–caused Refuse Fascism to go directly to the public. They knew that reasonable people did not and would not tolerate Trump. They decided to protest on the freeway to get the word out without the disinformation that Trump spreads on the airwaves and internet. The public supported them but the Los Angeles Police Department did not. After protesting nonviolently and being arrested cooperatively, LAPD sent an informant into the church where Refuse Fascism’s meetings were held. Their informant taped their meetings. Their informant urged violent protest. But, unaware they were being taped, the informant was told that Refuse Fascism doesn’t do that. Despite having proof that these were just ordinary concerned citizens banding together for social justice. The LAPD along with the LA City Attorney decided to prosecute the nonviolent protesters.
The Freeway protesters who were charged decided to have their case heard in court and pled Not Guilty. Every opportunity was given to the City Attorney to dismiss the case. Yet, the LA City Attorney insisted on a trial and, after that trial ended in a hung jury, they insisted on setting another trial despite calls to dismiss the case. The ordinary citizens who stood their ground and put their life on hold for almost three years went to trial again. Again, the case was a hung jury. Finally, after admitting that their own witnesses did not want to testify again, they dismissed the case. Perhaps lost in all of the drama and legal maneuvering is the plain fact that the ordinary citizens of Refuse Fascism were right. Trump was and is a threat to our community and America. All of the warnings given were proven true by the subsequent actions of Trump. It has taken the death of innocents for most Americans to come to the realization that they said back in 2017 that, “Trump must go!”
June 24th, 2020
Statement of counsel Michael Plaut who represents Chantelle Herschberger.
We all know how terrible a year 2020 has been for us individually and collectively.
However today finally justice has been achieved on behalf of Chantelle Herschberger and Miguel Antonio when all criminal charges against them regarding their brave freeway protests in 2017 were finally dismissed.
The long journey to justice lasted almost three years and required two trials in which most jurors sided with the innocent protestors Chantelle Herschberger and Miguel Antonio.
It should be noted that the second trial occurred during the current pandemic and all parties fighting against injustice refused to end the trial because justice delayed is justice denied.
As we all know the fight for justice has only begun but today is a proud day for those who believe in the first amendment and who stand against government and police tyranny.
Michael Plaut, Esq.
Statement by Stephen Rohde, First Amendment advocate and author of American Words of Freedom and Freedom of Assembly
“The dismissal of all charges against the Freeway Five by City Attorney Mike Feuer is a victory for free speech. It is a cause for celebration by everyone who believes in the right to peaceful, non-violent protest. These young and dedicated activists should never have been charged in the first place. Two of them have been forced to face two separate trials both resulting in hung juries, and yet the City Attorney was threatening to waste more taxpayers money to try them a third time until he finally came to his senses. “Conspiracy” – one charge leveled at 2 Freeway protesters – has been used by authoritarian governments for centuries to silence protest and resistance. Oppressive authorities called labor organizing a “conspiracy” and got injunctions from courts stopping working people from striking. In the law a conspiracy is any two people pursuing the same end. I think conspiracy is a dangerous weapon when it comes to free speech. I hope the City has learned its lesson. The police and City officials should protect peaceful protests like the ones involved in this case, rather than criminalize it. We owe these young protesters our thanks for having the courage to speak out against injustice and then to have the tenacity to defend their First Amendment rights in court. The Freeway Five, their lawyers, and their supporters deserve our gratitude and appreciation. Without people like them, constitutional rights would be a hollow promise. Everyone should learn from these brave protesters and finds ways in our own lives to exercise our constitutional rights and resist the first signs of repression.”
Congratulations on your vindication! City Attorney Mike Feuer’s disgraceful behavior in bringing these charges and then refiling them when there was a hung jury is shameful overreach. The right to protest peacefully in protected in the First Amendment to our Constitution.
From Jim Lafferty:
“What the Freeway 9 defendants did was a courageous service to us all. And I salute them! They risked their own freedom to protect the freedom of all Americans now under the sway of the would-be autocrat and neo-Fascistic president, Donald Trump. Everyday, in more and more frightening ways, we witness Trump’s cruel and bottomless hatred for all that is not Trump, for all that is not done as Trump wants it done, and for all that is not done solely for the benefit of Trump and his gaggle of criminal, greedy and hateful sycophants. Free all of the arrested anti-Trump protesters! Run Trump and Company out of the White House and into prison!
Executive Director Emeritus,
National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles
From Christopher T. Armen, attorney
To our community of Los Angeles,
It has been my distinct honor to represent my client, both in the UCLA Protests against Trump Administration official Steve Mnuchin, and Ex Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, as well as in the freeway protests case, demanding the ouster of the Trump/Pence Regime. In the UCLA protests all four clients were found not guilty by a jury of their peers, of all charges against them. When the jurors were polled and asked if not guilty was their individual verdict, the jury foreperson shouted out, Absolutely!!.
In the freeway protest cases all charges against all our clients have been correctly, dismissed.
The foresight of these young, brave defendants, surpassed most of our own. They saw, with great clarity the corruption, incompetence, authoritarian nature, pathological lying, and gutting of our institutions, early on.
They are my heroes. And it was my pleasure to represent them and their righteous opinions, on the battlefield of the courtroom. They spoke simple yet enduring truths, about the damage this corrupt administration has done to our country and the citizens of the world. They pleaded for people over profits, and that humanity must be nurtured, not attacked, and reviled. They exposed the simple fact that out electoral system, our health, environmental and educational institutions, have been corrupted and must be reformed.
They did all this, while embracing peaceful methods, even in the face of provocation, and spying.
For this, we are all indebted to each and every one of them, who stood against the powerful and corrupt, and said , No More.
Attorney Christopher T. Armen
Colleen Flynn, attorney:
Congratulations to the Freeway 9 defendants! This is a huge victory for free speech and activism in the City of Los Angeles.
Statement from Isabel Cardenas:
Regarding the charges against Refuse Fascism activists, these should have never been brought to trial!
Their action was under the constitutional right of Freedom of Speech. And the spying by the LAPD on Refuse Fascism – that is a violation of the constitutional rights to assemble of Refuse Fascism, the organization. These cases should have been dropped long ago… and now they are only doing it because of the demonstrations brought about by the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin, a police officer. Police brutality has been going on with impunity for too many decades and it is time that it stops; enough is enough!
The charges against Refuse Fascism organizers are being dropped because politicians are feeling the pressure. The banner they held on the freeway with “Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!” in 2017 – is one that should be taken into the freeways again! Let’s do it everywhere, including in front of City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, and be out with this demand 24 hours a day.
These Refuse Fascism protesters are courageous – and the only ones that have protested, continuously, saying “in the name of humanity the Trump/Pence regime must go”.
Humanity is suffering, because fascist presidents in other countries also follow the lead of Trump. Refuse Fascism has made a commitment… we need more people… because this is a human issue, and these fascists truly must be driven out. The work has been consistent, remarkable and uncompromising.
KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK! THESE FASCISTS MUST BE DRIVEN OUT NOW SO THAT THE NIGHTMARE ENDS ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Long time Immigrant Rights activist from El Salvador
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
In the Fall of 2017, protesters on two separate occasions walked onto the 101 Freeway in downtown LA during morning rush hour, stopping traffic with a 50-foot banner and signs demanding TRUMP PENCE MUST GO! The Freeway 9 were arrested and charged with a total of 43 misdemeanors including, obstruction of movement; failure to disperse; failure to comply with CHP and each faced up to 3 years in jail. This included 1 person who was not even on the freeway being charged with 2 counts of conspiracy. In the course of defending these protesters, it came to light that LAPD had sent in an informant to secretly record meetings of Refuse Fascism, posing as a avid advocate for the cause of the organization.
These defendants have held firm and insisted that they were right in taking these actions in the name of humanity, calling for people in their millions to take to the streets against the fascist Trump/Pence regime.
Today, almost 3 years later, the 30 misdemeanor charges against the 5 remaining Freeway 9 have finally been dismissed!
As one of the Freeway 9 Chantelle Hershberger said, “This is a victory in the fight against fascism. We defendants never backed down, after they spied on, slandered, dragged us through 2 trials, we remained on our mission – understanding that this regime is fascist and must be driven from power. We were right when we stepped onto the freeway in 2017 to call on others to step out as we are seeing in the streets today – not bound by politics as usual but proceeding from the interests for humanity. As the banner we unfurled said “TRUMP PENCE MUST GO! and NOW MORE THAN EVER!”
Paul Garcia, attorney for Miguel “Alex” Hernandez stated “The Refuse Fascism protesters were right. It has taken the deaths of innocents for most Americans to come to the realization that what their banner said back in 2017 that “Trump Pence Must Go!’” Michael Plaut, attorney for Chantelle, concluded “As we know the fight for justice has only begun but today is a proud day for those who believe in the first amendment and who stand against government and police tyranny.”
Stephen Rohde, First Amendment advocate and author of American Words of Freedom and Freedom of Assembly, stated “Everyone should learn from these brave protesters and finds ways in our own lives to exercise our constitutional rights and resist the first signs of repression.”
The Freeway 9 were relentlessly persecuted and prosecuted for almost 3 years for demanding that the Trump Pence Regime Must Go as this fascist regime was unleashing a barrage of insult, injury, and atrocity, with catastrophic consequences for all humanity. They were sounding the alarm of the dangers of this regime and calling on others in our thousands and millions to take to the streets across the country in non-violent sustained mass protest demanding Trump and Pence Out Now, growing to millions, and staying in the streets until this demand is met. The LAPD responded by having the LAPD Anti-Terrorist Division take over the investigation of these arrests. This division sent in a confidential informant CI (aka police spy) who secretly recorded the political meetings of Refuse Fascism held in a church for four weeks. It was revealed in Court that these secret recordings included attempts by the CI to entrap members of Refuse Fascism. Based on the ATD’s recommendations, 2 individuals whom the ATD identified as leaders of Refuse Fascism were charged with conspiracy, one of whom was not arrested or even on the freeway during these protests.
A critical component of the Trump Pence fascist regime’s program is the suppression and criminalization of dissent, the tearing up of the rule of law and the passage of laws allowing protesters to be run over, and Trump encouraging his white supremacist Nazi mobs to take out protesters on stretchers – all of which has escalated in the last 3 years.
It is outrageous that these dismissals come only after 2 of the Freeway 9 having been put on trial two times, both of which ended in mistrials (hung juries). Even as the first trial ended with 9 of 12 jurors voting not guilty on all charges, the City Attorney Democrat Mike Feuer demanded a new trial. The second trial also ended in with a hung jury in March of this year and again, the City Attorney’s office announced they would be seeking yet a third trial!
These Freeway defendants acted with courage and foresight and refused to back down facing 3 years in jail. Today, we see the eruption of a beautiful movement of hundreds of thousands across this country standing up to horrific crimes against Blacks lives, against the murder by police of Black and other oppressed people, which has been given even more of a green light by the Trump/Pence regime.
The courage and conviction shown by the Freeway 9 should inspire all those who see the danger of this fascist regime to now build on what has begun in the streets this past month to raise more powerfully that The Trump Pence Regime must go. We can’t rely on the normal channels to stop this fascist regime. We need to flood the streets in mass sustained nonviolent protest, not stopping, until our demand is met: Trump/Pence #OutNow .