On May 28, 2011 Television host Adam Kokesh and several other activists participating in a flash-mob were arrested at the publicly-funded Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Their crime? Silently dancing, in celebration of the first amendment’s champion; a clear violation of their right to free-expression. In an excessive use of force, video was captured of Adam being body slammed and placed in a choke for his non-crime.
We are asking for your support of two Olympia activists, Matt (Matthew Duran) and Maggi (Margaret Belknap), who have been charged with perjury in connection with their participation in an anti-police brutality demonstration in Olympia, WA on April 8th. The demonstration occurred in reaction to recent police murders in Olympia, Portland, Tacoma, and the Bay Area and the unaccountability that surrounds them.
This anti-police brutality march had attendance and support we haven’t seen in years. During a mass arrest, 29 people went to jail (The State Street 29) of the original approximately 50 participants , most of which were not charged. Several people were beaten or pepper balled, sat on the ground for hours in the cold waiting to be escorted off one by one, without being told what they were charged with, without being fed, without being allowed to call attorneys… you know the story. Like many experiences people have in jail, their treatment wasn’t the best – they were singled out for harsher treatment based on their political views.
Three individuals were initially charged. Paul French was charged with felony assault of an officer, Jami Williams with misdemeanor assault and malicious mischief, and Maggi with felony assault of an officer. We believe the evidence the police presented was fabricated and/or insufficient for conviction. Paul pled no contest and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He served two months on good behaviour. Maggi was sentenced to 30 days, serving 16 on good behaviour. Like in many instances before, assault of an officer was a mockery of the situation; it was closer to assault by an officer. Maggi was beaten by the police and pepperballed while she sat next to Matt, who received a pepperball to the head.
We were all excited when we thought this ordeal was over, but now they are facing new charges. When Maggi was initially charged with two counts of assault of an officer, she testified in her own defense. Matt, who was a witness to her arrest, also testified. Both testified that Maggi did not assault the officer, instead suggesting that perhaps it was the officer who assaulted her. Two officers testified against her. One of whom, their prime witness, admitted that he couldn’t say for sure whether or not she assaulted the officer. She was convicted of one count and acquitted of the other.
Matt and Maggi have now both been charged with one count of first degree felony perjury class B under state law. This is a serious felony and something nobody in Olympia has been charged with before in this context. It’s common in court cases to have witnesses which give completely contradicting testimony where nobody is charged with perjury. The prosecutor is making this charge on the basis that she was convicted. If one were to follow this logic, the officers who testified to the assault should also be charged with perjury as she was acquitted of one charge (and therefore their testimony must have been falsified as well). On the day of trial, the prosecution tried to bring in a witness they had not previously notified the defense about: an officer who had for over a month not realized he witnessed the whole event, now claiming he had seen the alleged assault! He was not allowed to testify, but it is likely he will testify in this case. This officer (Bryan Houser) also unjustly attacked a member of the Olympia community named Pony shortly after Officer Houser attempted to testify during Maggi’s initial assault case.
We need to raise a serious amount of money to bring political pressure, hire attorneys, and do outreach and we need to raise it in a matter of months. We have to raise $5,000 to pay the retainer for Matt’s lawyer and that amount will likely triple if this goes to trial. We all know how crucial yet costly these battles are. If the police can use this tactic successfully, perjury charges will occur much more frequently against those who take the risk of challenging government accountability in a public way. While the visible and public presence of the anti-police brutality movement in Olympia was damaged by the loss the State Street ordeal has put on us, the convictions of Maggi and Matt could very well be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. In September, police across Washington State killed six individuals and no officers have been charged for those killings. Most of them haven’t had any public investigation whatsoever.
Both Maggi and Matt have been active members of our community and movement for years. Recently Matt had begun organizing copwatches downtown in response to certain events, such as Artswalk, where “street sweeps” are conducted to harass the houseless and “clean up” the city. Matt regularly volunteers at the Olympia Food Co-Op and helped set up a public computer lab at our local social and activist resource center, Media Island. Maggi was a founding member of Olympia SDS, Port Militarization Resistance, and the Olympia Street Medics. She has also been extensively involved in EGYHOP (Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Program), a street outreach organization. Maggi also volunteers at Media Island. While we do not find it unusual or unexpected that they have been targeted in this way, it is worth mentioning the greater context that these charges fit into.
To emphasize the seriousness of these charges, under suggested sentencing guidelines Matt faces 3-6 months in jail and Maggi faces 6-12 (due to her previous assault conviction). Given the political targeting that is already going on, we expect them to push for maximum sentences. Other crimes in the 6-12 month category include: child molestation, extortion, kidnapping, rape, and possessing a stolen firearm. These charges are a big deal and we need big support to fight them.
The support committee that has taken on this task is a small group of dedicated people and we’ll make sure every dollar donated goes directly to fighting these charges and supporting Maggi and Matt in jail, should it come to that.
We need money, in-kind donation, design help, people to organize fundraisers, help doing outreach, and much much more. If you can help or want to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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