LOS ANGELES — The city attorney's office dropped all charges against Refuse Fascism members after a three years long trial that ended in June.
What You Need To Know
- After 3-year trial, city attorney's office dropped charges on members of Refuse Fascism who blocked traffic on the 101 in 2017
- LAPD was found to have infiltrated the peaceful protest organization with an informant
- Refuse Fascism is calling for sustained anti-Trump/Pence protest in the days leading up to November election, starting September 5
- 18 cities across the country have announced Refuse Fascism events, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and New York
Members of the group were arrested in 2017, when they were accused of blocking traffic on the 101 freeway to protest the Trump, Pence administration, but the trial revealed the Los Angeles Police Department had placed an anonymous informant inside the Refuse Fascism Organization.
The outcome of the trial is being called a victory for free speech and peaceful protests by Refuse Fascism.
Chantelle Hershberger said she felt she had to raise the alarm when she saw the normalization of what she describes the fascist tendencies of the Trump administration.
“People were horrified, but then they continued moving on with their lives, you know, going on with business as usual,” said Hershberger of the protests that followed the election of Trump in 2016. “We were recognizing that this was actually a fascist movement so we needed the sound that alarm.”
Although Refuse Fascism calls itself a peaceful protest group, the LAPD was found to have infiltrated the organization with a confidential informant during the criminal investigation.
“The LAPD actually targeted us as a terrorist group,” said Hershberger.
Although it's unclear why, the city attorney’s office tried Hershberger three times on the criminal trespass charges amid significant public outrage at the charges.
“We were holding protests outside of the courtroom to be like, this is unjust. These charges are illegitimate,” she said.
Michelle Xai is another Refuse Fascism member who was charged. Xai points to what she calls the double standard of law enforcement.
Xai said there was nothing illegal about what the informant observed and gathered from her group's meetings, which might be partly responsible for why the jury refuse to convict.
“They weren't sending any informants into any white supremacist organizations that actually had evidence to show that they went into these protests to physically assault and fight with people,” she said.
After three years and with the charges dismissed, Hershberger said the outcome is an important victory amid countrywide protests calling for dismantling of systemic racism and oppression.
“It's not just about one person in any of these struggles,” she said. “This trial is a victory because the state did not win. They did not succeed in criminalizing right to protest.”
Hershberger is glad the trials are over. She spent over 90 days in court during the trials.
Both Hershberger and Xai are back to work organizing a series of nationwide protests set to begin September 5 to amplify their anti-Trump, Pence message in the 60 days leading up to the November election.