Arizona’s Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has reportedly charged protesters against police violence with street gang crimes.
More than a dozen defendants, who are already facing additional charges related to an October 17 protest and others from earlier this year, according to ABC 15.
Phoenix Police have been accused of targeting specific protesters and community activists throughout the year, which has seen a spike in protests against law enforcement due to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others.
“It is not criminal gang activity to protest the police department that we pay millions and millions of dollars to exist,” Viri Hernandez, a director with Poder in Action, said, according to ABC 15. “These charges are messed up. They are wrong.”
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Once the indictments are publicly filed, the defendants are prepared to issue their response.
The street gang charges are reportedly based on the group’s use of the phrase “all cops are bastards.” They also dress in black and carry umbrellas.
Police testimony claims the group used the umbrellas to attack officers. Hernandez is labeling those allegations ridiculous.
“These charges are messed up. They are wrong,” she said.
“Prosecutor Allister Adele is doubling down on politics prosecutions,” said Bruce Franks Jr., a former Missouri state representative and current Maricopa county resident. “We have received trumped up charges, been indicted with felonies even though police body can footage contradicts their own accounts. Now we are seeing the most outlandish show if force as she tries to pin protestors and activist with street gang charges.”
He added: “This won’t slow us down or shut us up! Our 1st and 4th Amendment rights are being stripped by a person who represents a party that says they want to protect the constitution, I guess it wasn’t written for me!”
The protestors are being charged under a section of Arizona Revised Statute 13-2321, which reads: “A person commits assisting a criminal street gang by committing any felony offense, whether completed or preparatory for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with any criminal street gang.”