By David Martinez -Tribune of the people
In a victory for the ongoing movement to drop the charges of the thousands of protesters across the country, Travis County Attorney David Escamilla has said that he will not prosecute 104 out of 178 arrests that occurred in protests that have taken place since the May Uprisings.
In addition, activists reported that many charges have been dropped from an International Working Women’s Day march led by Popular Women’s Movement-Movimiento Femenino Popular. Various charges from a series of protests against the Domain on Riverside, a potential luxury project in East Austin, were also dropped. There have also been reports that charges associated with a car slowdown action in solidarity with rent strikes on May 1, during International Workers’ Day are being dropped.
As County Attorney, Escamilla oversees the prosecution of misdemeanors. Incoming County Attorney Delia Garza has publicly stated prior to her election that she would also drop charges against protesters.
Those charged with felonies did not see their charges dismissed, since those are prosecuted by the District Attorney. The current DA, Margaret Moore, has continued to aggressively pursue felony charges, and is aiding Trump’s witch hunt by prosecuting the Targeted Three accusing them of being ‘antifa.’
Many community members with multiple arrests for their activism have also not seen their charges dropped, the state showing its interest in keeping them tied up in the tedious legal process and drawing scrutiny on them.
A representative from Drop the Charges, a coalition focused on the efforts to dismiss charges against protesters, told Tribune, the dropped charges are “cause to celebrate, and shows that we have to keep raising awareness and stand with protesters, and refuse to take bogus plea deals that leave marks on people’s lives for fighting for what they believe in.”
Some protesters took plea deals for reduced charges that resolved their cases sooner, but the charges remain on their record, and this also breaks solidarity with others facing prosecution. Resisting charges en masse complicates the state’s ability to prosecute and taxes the legal system, and shows that the states’ intimidation won’t deter protesters or force them to admit to wrongdoing.
Escamilla has tried to frame those charges he has not dropped as being cases of ‘property damage,’ trying to isolate the most militant protesters.
The sheer number of dropped charges makes clear that the basis for the police’s arrests were flimsy to begin with. The police brutally arrest people at will, make false accusations, and knowingly twist the interpretation of bourgeois laws.
Jose Garza, the incoming DA, has made no statements with regards to dropping felony charges. Garza came into office by courting protesters in the movement for Black lives, essentially trafficking in their struggles, and his refusal to pledge to drop felony charges only highlights that he serves the reactionary agenda of dividing protesters into good and bad, upholding the police as the authority on the subject. The movement must redouble its efforts against Garza and the witch hunts which have plagued activists since May, with escalating and militant struggles.