Advocates will hold a dance party on Philly’s ‘Rocky steps’ Saturday to draw attention to the 230 people who face 60 years in prison for protesting the inauguration of President Trump.
Local advocacy group Philly J20 Solidarity is organizing the event, which takes place at 1 p.m in front of the museum. The protesters, known as the J20 defendants, include those who were arrested en masse at the inauguration in Washington, DC on January 20, 2017.
The dance party and rally will feature a live DJ, giant puppets and banners, organizers said.
Most of the defendants were charged under the Federal Riot Statute, and face up to 60 years in prison if convicted. Twelve of those charged are from Philadelphia.
“No one should have to fear decades of prison time for going to a street protest,” said Andy Switzer, a J20 defendant and human rights advocate from West Philly.
J20 defendants and supporters say that the use of the Federal Riot Statute sets a dangerous precedent for repressing dissent and preventing people from exercising their first amendment rights.
“Standing up to state repression as a community is one of our strongest lines of defense against the new regime's onslaught on human rights,” said Rachel Russell, a J20 defendant and Philadelphia resident.
The group is calling on U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to drop the charges against all J20 defendants.
“We want to send a clear message that our communities here in Philadelphia stand in solidarity with the J20 defendants and demand that these charges be dropped,” said Sean Damon, a J20 supporter and legal worker with the Amistad Law Project. “This overzealous and dangerous prosecution of those who raised their voice against the Trump administration is a threat to us all.”
Liu’s office has not yet responded to Metro’s request for comment. The first of the J20 trials are set to begin on Nov. 15.