Prosecutors Say A Woman Who Went Undercover With An “Anarchist Extremist Group” Will Testify At Inauguration Protest Trials

by Zoe Tillman, via BuzzFeed News

In the next round of trials against people charged with rioting during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, federal prosecutors want to put a witness on the stand under an alias who spent two years undercover with “an anarchist extremist group” in New York.

Prosecutors said in court papers filed March 2 that the witness, referred to as “Julie McMahon,” is no longer working undercover, but they warned that revealing her identity could jeopardize ongoing “covert operations” and also put her security at risk. McMahon will testify about the use of the “black bloc” tactic during protests on Jan. 20, 2017, according to the government.

There are 59 people still facing criminal charges in connection with the mass arrests in Washington, DC, during anti-Trump demonstrations on Inauguration Day. Following the full acquittal last year of the first six defendants to go to trial, the US attorney’s office announced in January that it would drop charges against 129 of the 188 remaining defendants.

The prosecution told the court at the time that it planned to focus its efforts on defendants who allegedly engaged in “identifiable acts of destruction, violence, or other assaultive conduct,” participated in planning violence and destruction, or who knowingly participated in what’s known as “black bloc” tactics in order to aid violence and destruction.

The next trial is scheduled to begin on March 26, although four of the five defendants have asked to delay the trial for various reasons, including personal conflicts and difficulties going through all of the evidence in time. The government is opposing the request.

The government plans to call “Julie McMahon” to testify about the “black bloc” tactic, according to its latest filing. A black bloc is commonly described as a group of protesters who wear all black clothing, along with black masks or other gear that makes it harder to identify them as individuals. The government’s theory in the Inauguration Day cases is that the defendants conspired to participate in a black bloc to make harder for police to identify individuals who engaged in violence and property destruction.

The government has said the Jan. 20 demonstrations caused more than $100,000 in property damage across downtown Washington. Throughout the protests, individuals would run out, break the windows of stores and cars, and then rejoin the crowd. Most of the remaining 59 defendants face at least eight criminal counts — one felony count of inciting a riot, two misdemeanor counts of engaging in a riot and conspiracy to riot, and five felony counts of property destruction.

The government said in its latest court filing that it intends to call “Julie McMahon” to testify about how a black bloc typically works, and how she believes it was used on Jan. 20, including the clothing demonstrators wore, objects that were later found on the scene — including crowbars and other weapons — and the use of “marshals, scouts, and medics.”

“Ms. McMahon will further opine that, in her training and experience, the ‘black bloc’ tactic is only used when individuals within the group intend to engage in acts of violence and destruction, and that the ‘black bloc’ tactic is a known term within the anarchist movement,” prosecutors wrote.

McMahon worked undercover — though the filing does not say for whom — infiltrating an “anarchist extremist group” in New York from 2008 to 2010 and took part in a black bloc during protests in Pittsburgh in 2008 during the G20 conference, according to the government. She was going to participate in a black bloc as part of the Occupy New York movement, but that “did not materialize as expected,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors said McMahon also worked undercover in public corruption and foreign counter-intelligence operations, and previously had been allowed to testify in court under an alias in criminal cases in federal court in New York.

The Confrontation Clause of the US Constitution gives defendants the right to face and cross-examine witnesses against them in court. Prosecutors said they would provide the defense with McMahon’s real name and job history so they could prepare questions for her, under the condition that they not be allowed to reveal her identity to anyone else.

The government said the precautions were needed not only to protect operations that McMahon had been part of, but also to protect her — prosecutors said the lead prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, and the lead detective had been harassed as personal information about them spread last year. According to the government, Kerkhoff received a “targeted mailing” at her home that included a picture of her with the letters “CFM” on her body, which the government said often refers to the phrase, “Come Fuck Me.”

A spokesperson for the US attorney’s office declined to comment. The government filed notice about its intent to introduce McMahon in the cases set for trial March 26 and April 17; defense lawyers in those cases either declined to comment or did not return requests for comment.

Dylan Petrohilos, one of the defendants in the April 17 trial group, told BuzzFeed News that the description of McMahon’s work was proof of a “long-term strategy where the state has … clamped down on civil liberties in the name of trying to go after this anarchist bogeyman.”

“This is part of a long-term trend of surveillance of activists that is unfortunately becoming more and more the norm,” Petrohilos said. He declined to comment on whether he would challenge allowing McMahon to testify under an alias.


Edited for

Trump’s DOJ Demands Personal Info On 1.3M Visitors to “DisruptJ20” Inauguration Protest Website – The Justice Department is demanding web hosting provider DreamHost turn over 1.3 million IP addresses of people who visited the website, which was used to organize the protests against President Trump’s inauguration. The Justice Department is also seeking names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information about the owners and subscribers of the website. More than 200 protesters were arrested during the Inauguration Day protests and are now facing decades in prison on trumped-up charges. We are joined by Nate Cardozo, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. His group is assisting DreamHost in its opposition to the government’s search warrant.

Edited for

BK/NY – Tuesday August 1st – Letter Writing Dinner for Dane Powell

WHAT: Political Prisoner Letter-Writing Dinner WHEN: 7pm sharp, Tuesday, August 1, 2017 WHERE: The Base – 1302 Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11221 (directions below) NOTE: The Base is on the ground floor, is wheelchair accessible, and has a gender neutral toilet. COST: Free On Friday, July 7th, Dane Powell became the first victim of […]

via BK/NY – Tuesday August 1st – Letter Writing Dinner for Dane Powell — NYC Anarchist Black Cross

J20: Call for an International Week of Solidarity, July 20-27, 2017

J20 week of solidarity, take two

Defend J20 Resistance! Keep the Pressure on!

By: CrimethInc

We are calling for a Week of Solidarity with the J20 defendants from July 20 to 27, 2017. July 20 marks six months from the initial actions and arrests during Donald Trump’s inauguration, and on July 27, a motion to dismiss the charges will be argued in court. The case has finally begun to receive the media attention it warrants; with this court date approaching and the cases underway, this is a crucial time for a second Week of Solidarity. Send reportbacks, photographs, and inquiries to

On January 20, 2017, thousands of people came to Washington, DC to protest the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. In the early morning, blockades shut down security checkpoints and discouraged people from attending the inauguration itself, while impromptu marches and direct actions occurred throughout the day. There was a spirit of defiance in the air.

Iconic images circulated almost immediately, from the punching of white supremacist Richard Spencer to pictures of a limousine on fire. These were only the most spectacular images, however, of a day that was characterized by generalized disruption.

Midmorning, an “anticapitalist and antifascist” march of several hundred people made clear its opposition not just to Trump but also the system that made Trump possible. Led by banners reading “MAKE RACISTS AFRAID AGAIN” and “TOTAL LIBERATION FROM DOMINATION,” the disruptive march took the streets of DC to the sound of fireworks and anticapitalist chants. After about half an hour, the march was brutally attacked by police, who used chemical and crowd control weapons along with physical force, then boxed in (“kettled”) and mass-arrested people. Everyone on an entire city block was arrested and given the same charge of felony rioting. Approximately 214 arrestees now face a total of eight felony charges, including conspiracy and destruction of property. All of the J20 defendants are now facing up to 75 years in prison.

A great deal has happened in the six months since the inauguration. Confrontational protests have taken place across the continent, challenging the political landscape shaped by Trump’s election. Participants have stood up to emboldened white supremacists, disrupted airports in the face of anti-Muslim bans, blockaded proposed pipeline routes, set up sanctuary spaces and rapid response networks against ICE deportations, and much more. In turn, states are passing legislation aimed at further criminalizing protest and limiting resistance.

The J20 case fits into this wave of repression. The police seized and hacked phones in an attempt to strengthen the government’s case, and subpoenaed social media accounts. They raided an organizer’s home in DC. Arrestees had their personal information leaked online. The prosecution filed additional charges, essentially accusing the entire group of breaking the same handful of windows. All this has disrupted the lives of the defendants in the J20 case, who have lost jobs, incurred legal expenses, and been forced to make repeated trips to DC. The majority of cases are now headed to trial, with a handful of trials set for November and December 2017 and the rest scattered throughout 2018. Despite the fact that the state forced a large number of strangers into this situation at random, the majority of defendants are working together, responding to the charges in a collective way.

In order to continue to build our capacity to counter state repression and strengthen our interconnected struggles, we are calling for a Week of Solidarity from July 20 to 27, 2017, to make support for the J20 defendants widely visible. July 20 marks six months since the initial actions and arrests; on July 27, a motion to dismiss the charges will be argued in court.

We call on supporters to organize events and actions in solidarity with the J20 defendants throughout the week. Be creative and strategic! Help cultivate a spirit of resistance and mutual aid! Some ideas and areas to focus on during the week include:

Fundraising – As with any legal case, fundraising for legal and travel costs continues to be important. You can consult a list of regional fund-raising sites here and make donations to the general DC fund here. One easy fundraiser activity would be to organize a screening of the new subMedia film “No Justice … Just Us: Movement Defense against State Repression”. Other ideas include bake sales, raffles, speakers, or benefit shows. Some folks have also made t-shirts and tote bags.

Take Political Action – The J20 arrests were so plainly illegal that even the DC city council has funded an investigation into police abuses that day. This could turn up evidence useful to the defendants, but only if it takes place soon! During the Week of Solidarity, flood the DC Office of Police Complaints with demands that the investigation happen NOW. For more details, go here.

Outreach – One reason these prosecutions are possible in the first place is the lack of visibility around the case. Find ways to spread the word, with an eye toward translating visibility and public awareness into the capacity for material and emotional support. If you are part of an organization or have connections to one, ask it to endorse the “Statement of Solidarity,” or write and release your own statement against the prosecution in solidarity with those arrested on J20. Circulate statements widely among all the networks you have access to.

Increase Visibility – Design posters and decorate your town with them. Several poster designs are available here, but more designs are always welcome. Consider designing handbills or other agitational materials. Share them in the days before the Week of Solidarity. Drop banners. Paint graffiti. Set up an information table at a public event or space. Spread the word on social media; try to persuade people who are well known to take a public position. Organize public visibility actions to spread the word about the case; international readers could consider taking action at US embassies to demand that the charges be dropped as a means of raising awareness.

Build Connections – Use the Week of Solidarity as a means of connecting struggles. The J20 defendants aren’t the only ones facing felony charges for their resistance or presence at political events. Organize joint events to benefit other defendants as well. Think of ways to connect across movements, using such events as a stepping-stone toward building robust and combative movements that can withstand repression and take the initiative.

Build Capacity – It’s also important to remember the many and varied reasons that people took to the streets on January 20. Those are at least as urgent now when so many people are facing charges. It is imperative that people not turn away out of fear of repression or isolate themselves. That is what the state wants. We must meet these charges with defiance and continued resistance. We must respond not just as supporters but also as active comrades in a shared struggle.

Finally, we encourage folks to visit to sign up for e-mail updates about the case, or follow “Defend J20 Resistance” on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Protesters Face 80 Years as US Attorney Brings Unprecedented Mass Felony Charges

From Unicorn Riot

Washington, DC – Dozens of the over two hundred people arrested protesting President Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (‘J20’) have appeared in court over the last two weeks.

(Content Advisory: Sexual Assault)

The arrests took place on the morning of January 20 during an ‘anti-capitalist/anti-fascist’ march, which traveled approximately sixteen blocks, during which police attacked protesters, medics, journalists, and bystanders with chemical weapons, batons, and concussion/flashbang grenades. Several corporate store windows were broken, and there was a melee as part of the crowd was able to charge through police lines to escape the mass arrest as officers began to move into a ‘kettle’ formation, eventually arresting every person in the vicinity.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against DC police over constitutional, civil, and human rights violations carried out by local and federal authorities during the mass arrest. Everyone in the mass arrest was detained outdoors for six hours without access to food, water, or restrooms; one arrestee described the experience as “like being in a cattle car.” The lawsuit states that ‘One of the MPD officers, Defendant Officer John Doe 96, made clear to the detainees that no toilets would be made available by stating in response to one detainee’s request that she should “shit [her] pants” to prove she needed a toilet.’

One of the journalists arrested, Shay Horse, told Democracy Now! “I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.” The lawsuit describes, among other physical and sexual abuse, that officers laughed while rectal searches were being performed, fondled arrestees’ testicles, did not change gloves while moving from one individual to the next performing anal searches, and “manual rectal searches were performed in the presence of several other detainees and approximately five to ten other MPD officers, including at least one or two female officers.”

Observers from the Washington, DC Office of Police Complaints (OPC) who were present on January 20 say that the police attacked protesters and bystanders violently and without warning. The OPC released a damning report which details how DC Metro Police (MPD) violated their own policies that day:

“When MPD corralled people, at 12th and L Streets, [the protesters] were not allowed to leave. In addition, there is no indication in witness reports, nor any observations by OPC monitors, that any warnings were given either before or after the police line cordoned off those who were later arrested… [pepper] spray was deployed to move the crowd, without warnings, and in many instances it was used on people who were simply standing in the wrong place…a verbal command to step back should have preceded the use of the weapon, and that would have been sufficient to move the crowd.” – DC Office of Police Complaints

Washington DC’s city council has already allocated $150,000 for an official investigation into police misconduct on inauguration day.

In February a federal grand jury returned a felony riot indictment on everyone who was mass arrested after DC police surrounded and ‘kettled’ the anti-capitalist/anti-fascist march along with everyone else in the vicinity. The first indictment threatened sentences of up to ten years for 214 individuals swept up in the kettle, with charges against some reporters and legal observers later dropped (some reporters still face charges.)

On April 27, a new superseding indictment was issued, adding several more felony charges to all defendants, who now face potential sentences of up to 80 years. All defendants, including the majority of whom who have had little to no evidence presented against them, face felony counts of Inciting or Urging to Riot, Rioting, Conspiracy to Riot, and five counts of Destruction of Property. While the indictment mentions a few individuals specifically accused of breaking windows and throwing objects at officers, it mostly invokes the collective guilt of the entire crowd based only on their presence at an anarchist protest, at times citing protest chants or black clothing as evidence of ‘conspiracy.’ The various counts of property damage brought against everyone in the indictment include a limousine destroyed hours after the mass arrest was already underway.

The unprecedented mass felony case against inauguration day protesters is being brought by the US Attorney’s Office (USAO), which answers to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Civil liberties advocates have objected to USAO prosecuting the case against anti-Trump protests on behalf on the Trump administration, as opposed to leaving the case to local D.C. prosecutors. The prosecution is being overseen by Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, a former corporate lawyer who once donated to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and Assistant US Attorney John Borchert. Kerkhoff and Borchert work under Channing Phillips, the US Attorney for the District of Columbia.

DC Metro Police Chief Peter Newsham, who oversaw the January 20 mass arrest and recently settled a lawsuit for a similar 2002 protest mass arrest, is still involved in the case, according to a recent Department of Justice press release. Also involved is DC police Detective Greggory Pemberton, the lead detective on the raid of the home of a protest organizer named in the superseding indictment. Pemberton serves as local treasurer for the Fraternal Order of Police, a right-wing police union which endorsed Donald Trump for president.

The most recent hearings were primarily concerned with scheduling trials, as well as status hearings and motions hearings taking place before trials. Defense attorneys had filed motions to dismiss the superseding indictment, as well as to disclose instructions given to the grand jury which returned the superseding indictment; these motions will be discussed at hearings in July.

Status hearings regarding the use of data from protester’s phones taken by police were set for October 6, October 13, and October 27 of this year. The government agreed to comply with Judge Lynn Leibovitz’s request to release all cell phone data to defendants by July 5. Comments made at hearings indicate police and prosecutors may have been assisted by the Israeli firm Cellebrite to hack into protester’s phones. The defense also made a motion to instruct the government to not destroy any evidence in the case; this motion was granted.

Also discussed in the hearings were difficulties with the court’s e-filing system. Defense attorneys were told they had to send any motions to each other individual defense attorney, which some pointed out was no easy task as the format of the government’s case forces each of the over two hundred defendants to have their own counsel. One defense lawyer requested that the court provide a written record of Judge Leibovitz’s oral instructions, as they were unable to attend in person each of the many hearings potentially relevant to their client’s defense. Judge Leibovitz explicitly refused, saying, “That’s not happening. I’m not doing that.”

Counsel for Alexei Wood, who livestreamed the entire march leading up to the mass arrest, brought up first amendment issues in his client’s case. He indicated that he may seek to separate Wood’s case from the other defendants, since the nature of Wood being arrested while livestreaming means that clear video evidence exists as to what he was doing the entire time. (Independent journalist Aaron Cantu also still faces felony charges under the superseding indictment.)

Wood, along with other defendants who insist on exercising their right to a speedy trial, now has a scheduled trial date of November 20, the first trial of inauguration day protesters set to take place. Other defendants have trial dates in December and scattered throughout 2018.

The government’s case so far appeared to hinge on separating defendants into four different groups with different trial scheduling, which would allow the US Attorney’s Office to bring defendants with more evidence against them to trial first as they attempt to build the other cases for later trials. This strategy appears to have partially failed as those in Group 4, whose guilt the government asserts based only on their presence at the protest, are now among those first to go to trial.

Some evidence, including police body camera footage, has already been given to some defense counsel by the government through discovery. Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff expressed anger in court after body camera footage showing police attacking demonstrators appeared in an article by the The Indypendent.

Kerkoff introduced a motion to forbid defendants from sharing any discovery video under threat of being held in contempt of court, a measure which could prevent evidence from being gathered for future civil suits. The motion was not ruled on but is expected to be granted or denied by Judge Leibovitz at a hearing next month.

The piling on of additional felony charges to all defendants appears to be an attempt to coerce those arrested into signing plea deals instead of going to trial. Several defendants have signed non-cooperating plea deals for misdemeanor riot charges in exchange for a suspended sentence, probation, and community service. Over half of those named in the indictment have signed a statement of unity pledging to not cooperate with prosecutors against their co-defendants. Dane Powell, who plead guilty to felony rioting and felony assault on a police officer, has a sentencing hearing on July 7. He faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine, or both.

On Sunday, June 25, a coalition of local groups, including DC Legal Posse (who helps coordinate support for J20 arrestees) held a ‘speakout against fascism and state repression’ outside DC Metro Police headquarters.

With a legal battle expected to last over another year, both the prosecuting attorneys, defense lawyers and supporters of those arrested are strategizing for the many months ahead.

Defendants and supporters are standing strong in the face of this outrageous and continued repression. We will keep fighting until everyone is free. – Sam Menefee-Libey, DC Legal Posse

When asked for comment, William Miller of the US Attorneys’ Office for DC said he could not remark on an ongoing case.

Earlier this month we caught up with Chicago-based J20 arrestee Olivia to speak with her about the case. Watch the full interview below:

by Chris Schiano

Live Video Panel Discussion: The RNC 8, Standing Rock, and J20 Cases

J20 police repression

This is our second live video presentation about how to respond to the wave of repression sweeping the United States, with outrageous charges being brought against arrestees from Standing Rock, Trump’s inauguration, and more. This panel includes a defendant from the conspiracy case that followed the protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention and legal support workers responding to the repression of Standing Rock and J20 defendants. They discuss how to survive a politically motivated court case, how to organize a collective strategy against outrageous charges, how to engage with the criminal legal system as radicals, and other important questions facing current and future defendants. View the video here on this page or via

Over 200 defendants arrested during Trump’s inauguration are now facing more than 70 years in prison apiece. In the months since their arrests, the prosecution has continued piling blanket felony charges on the defendants. This is punitive charging: the intention is clearly to terrorize the defendants into taking plea deals so that these inflated charges never come to trial.

This is not the first time that conspiracy charges have been used to harass and intimidate dissidents. In 2008, for example, the RNC Welcoming Committee helped to organize massive demonstrations during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. In retaliation, police raided several homes and arrested eight organizers, charging them with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism.” After two years of widely publicized struggle, all charges were dropped against three of the defendants, while the others plead to misdemeanors.

Likewise, prosecutors are using the same strategy to terrorize people arrested defending Standing Rock last year, in hopes of bullying them into accepting guilty pleas. Several hundred defendants are facing these charges.

If you would like to pose a question or suggest a topic for discussion, email


Garrett Fitzgerald is an anarchist who got deep into anti-repression work fighting his own case in 2008 as one of the RNC 8 defendants. Since then, he has been on several support crews for people facing repression, alternating this with prisoner support work. Recently, he has been doing mass defense and arrestee support work around the NoDAPL struggle.

Tova is an anarchist who has done prisoner support, non-attorney legal work, and anti-repression organizing since 2008. They recently finished a grand jury resistance tour with comrades from the Freshet Collective, a Legal Collective that provides support to arrestees from Standing Rock. They currently are working on J20 support.

Jude Ortiz has been involved in anarchist legal support organizing and prisoner support since he joined a legal collective in Minneapolis prior to the 2008 RNC. He helped form the Tilted Scales Collective after an Anarchist Black Cross conference in 2012. In 2016, he took on the position of chair of the Mass Defense Committee with the National Lawyers Guild.

Supporting Prisoners

As described in the panel discussion, Red Fawn Fallis and Michael “Little Feather” Giron are two Indigenous Water Protectors facing federal charges. Both are still being held in custody as they await trial. You can write them at:

Red Fawn Fallis, HACTC, 110 Industrial Rd., Rugby, ND 58368

Michael Giron, 205 6th SE #2, Suite 201, Jamestown, ND 58401

Krow is being held in Wisconsin on a probation violation following her work as an ally on the frontlines at Standing Rock. She can receive letters at:

Katie Kloth, Iron County Jail, 300 Taconite St., Hurley, WI 54534

New Blanket Felony Charges Pressed against J20 Arrestees An Unprecedented Use of Punitive Charges as a Tactic of Mass Intimidation

J20 punitive charges

On January 20, when downtown Washington, DC was crowded with massive protests against Trump’s inauguration, police cordoned off an entire city block and mass arrested over two hundred people, slapping the same charge of felony riot indiscriminately on every one of them.

On April 27, the prosecution filed a superseding indictment adding several more felony charges to each of these defendants: inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property. About half of the defendants are also charged with the same count of assault on a police officer. This is punitive charging: the intention is clearly to terrorize the defendants into taking plea deals so that these inflated charges will never come to trial.

Adding additional felony charges to hundreds of defendants rounded up in a mass arrest is unprecedented in the contemporary US legal system. It marks a dramatic escalation in the repression of protest in this country. Essentially, over two hundred people swept up for being in the vicinity of a confrontational protest are being accused of breaking the same handful of windows.

Imagine if everyone in the vicinity of an Occupy or Black Lives Matter demonstration at which a little property destruction took place had been charged with eight felonies. Thousands of people would have charges now. If the prosecution is able to set this precedent for blanket intimidation and collective punishment, it will mark a significant step in the rise of tyranny.

This case is of concern not only for the hundreds who face these charges, but to the tens of thousands who might face similarly indiscriminate prosecution if the prosecution is able to set this example.

Please print out these handbills and spread the word.

Download handbills here

Donate to support arrestees

Defend J20 site

For more information…