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8 activists on trial in D.C. statehood protest case

Eight D.C. statehood activists arrested in a Capitol Hill demonstration in April went on trial Tuesday, facing fines and possible jail time if convicted of the civil disobedience charges against them.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty and contend that they were lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. Their non-jury trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday before D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin.

The eight men and women were among more than 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.

The eight who chose to go to trial face misdemeanor charges that include disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and failing to obey a police order. Some of the offenses are punishable by up to three months and jail and a $1,000 fine.

The prosecution finished presenting its case Tuesday. Lawyers for the defendants will continue arguing their case Wednesday.

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