On Monday, November 16 at 19:30 GMT:
People across the United States have continued to demand racial justice since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police sparked a summer of popular protest. But many demonstrators calling for change have found themselves being branded criminals.
Over the last five months, thousands of protesters supportive of Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist movements have been arrested by police while exercising their constitutional right to assemble – and hundreds are now facing serious charges that carry prison terms and fines.
Many of those facing criminal proceedings say they were peacefully protesting before being arrested on flimsy pretexts by overzealous police. In some cases, activists say, prosecutors have stacked charges against defendants to ensure a plea bargain. And even if a charge is eventually dismissed, an arrest record can hamper opportunities for employment, college admission, and rental housing. Undocumented immigrants and those who are DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiaries may face deportation proceedings if they are arrested at a protest.
More than 13,600 arrests were made by various law enforcement agencies at demonstrations between May 25 and June 6, according to the FBI. Many of those arrests led to federal charges that are now being tracked by The Prosecution Project, a group that tracks the arrest and prosecution of people accused of engaging in political violence.
The TPP’s director says the vast majority of federal cases it is tracking are against individuals supportive of Black Lives Matter, migrant rights, and anti-fascist movements – far outweighing the arrest and prosecution of those linked to far-right and white supremacist organisations that the US Department of Homeland Security deems “the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland”.
In this episode of The Stream, we hear from activists who have faced intimidation, arrest and prosecution – and discuss what their experiences suggest about Americans’ ability to rightfully protest under the First Amendment. Join the conversation.