Washington, DC – Six “protesters” who were arrested on multiple counts during a violent Inauguration Day protest were acquitted by a jury on Thursday, following a month-long trial.
Oliver Harris, 28, Jennifer Armento, 38, Alexei Wood, 37, Michelle Macchio, 26, Christina Simmons, 20, and Brittne Lawson, 27, had all been charged with multiple counts of rioting and destruction of property, The Washington Post reported.
Trials for an additional 166 demonstrators are pending.
Hundreds of protesters descended on the city to protest the Inauguration on Jan. 20.
Many dressed in black and wore masks to help conceal their identities, WJLA reported. Some were armed with bricks, hammers, and crowbars.
The six defendants were among a group of particularly violent demonstrators who smashed windows, threw newspaper boxes into the street, and set a limousine ablaze, The Washington Post reported.
The group caused over $100,000 in damages throughout a 16-block area, police said.
Prosecutors argued that the purpose of the demonstration, which was organized by a group calling themselves DisruptJ20, was to create chaos and destruction.
Although prosecutors told the jury that the defendants chose to stay with the group when the vandalism began to occur, they said they were unable to provide proof that any of the six on trial was personally responsible for any of the damages caused.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rizwan Qureshi told jurors that the riotous group “tore up your city, putting people in danger.”
According to WTOP, Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz decided that “no reasonable juror” would agree that the prosecution had proved that the six defendants had encouraged others in their group to riot, and she threw out the charge of inciting a riot in each of their cases.
The jury then acquitted each of the defendants on a misdemeanor count of engaging in rioting, a misdemeanor count of conspiracy to riot, and five felony counts of destruction of property.
“There was no evidence to support whether or not these six willingly participated in the riots or aided and abetted the rioters,” a juror told The Washington Post.
Those who were acquitted celebrated after the verdict.
“People won’t be afraid to show up and go protest and get in the streets and not be worried that they’ll get mass arrested like we did,” Macchio told WTOP. “This sets a really strong precedent that that’s not OK and you can’t criminalize dissent.”
BuzzFeed News reported that they asked Wood what he thought about the verdict.
“F*k them so hard,” he replied via text.
Twenty of the 212 people who were charged in relation to the protests have pleaded guilty, The Washington Post reported. Charges were dismissed in an additional 20 cases.
The remaining 166 defendants will face trial in groups of six or seven, in trials that are expected to last well into 2018.