D.C. statehood activists convicted

Seven of eight D.C. statehood activists arrested in a Capitol Hill demonstration in April were convicted of misdemeanor charges Wednesday and ordered to pay fines.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to civil disobedience charges and argued that they were lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.

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In a non-jury trial that began Tuesday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin found six defendants guilty of illegally blocking a street and failing to comply with police orders to disperse. Each was ordered to pay a $100 fine and $100 in court fees and money to a victim’s compensation fund.

Morin suspended the $100 in fines for four of the defendants, saying it would be a financial hardship for them.

D.C. Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown was convicted of one count of failing to obey a lawful order. He was fined $50 and ordered to pay $100 to the court and the fund.

Anise Jenkins, an activist with Stand Up for Democracy, was acquitted after Morin concluded that she may have joined the demonstration late and was unaware of the orders to disperse.

The verdicts came shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday, after which Moran began hearing arguments on what the punishment should be.

The eight defendants were among 40 protesters — including D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and a half-dozen D.C. Council members — arrested on different days in April. The demonstrators blocked traffic on Capitol Hill and caused other disruptions while protesting the city’s lack of voting representation in Congress.

The mayor, council members and most of the others opted to pay fines in return for the charges against them being dropped.

 
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