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Thu Nov 19, 2020, 06:53 PM

Why Charges Against Protesters Are Being Dismissed by the Thousands

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/us/protests-lawsuits-arrests.html

Why Charges Against Protesters Are Being Dismissed by the Thousands

Prosecutors declined to pursue many of the cases because they concluded the protesters were exercising their basic civil rights.

Neil MacFarquhar
Nov. 19, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —

[...]

Now, more than five months later, as Mr. Kaufmann’s case and those of thousands of others finally land in courts across the United States, a vast majority of cases against protesters are being dismissed. Only cases involving more substantial charges like property destruction or other violence remain.

Prosecutors called the scale of both the mass arrests and mass dismissals within a few short months unrivaled, at least since the civil rights protests of the early 1960s. With the police detaining hundreds of people in major cities, the arrests this year ended up colliding with the limitations of the court system.

In the aftermath, prosecutors declined to pursue many of the cases because they concluded that the protesters were exercising their basic civil rights. Cases involving free speech or free assembly rarely succeed in court, according to prosecutors across the country, and the coronavirus pandemic also played a role in the decision. A wave of thousands of minor cases threatened to capsize courts already floundering under hefty lockdown backlogs.

There was also the recognition that law enforcement officers often use mass arrests as a technique to help clear the streets, not to confront illegal behavior.

[...]

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