Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective Wins Legal Victory
Above photo: Four protectors in a second floor window of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. Front row: David Paul and Adrienne Pine. Back row: Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.
The sentencing of the final four from the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective marked another defeat for Juan Guaidó and his DC-based coup administration.
Prior to handing it down, however, an Obama-appointed judge delivered an unhinged law-and-order tirade denigrating the defendants.
On the morning of June 3, four U.S. citizens from the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective (EPC) who engaged in a two-week-long standoff with right-wing Venezuelan exile hooligans and members of Juan Guaidó’s coup administration entered a plea agreement with the U.S. government.
The chief Judge for the U.S. District Court District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, sentenced David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, and Adrienne Pine to six months of probation and fines totaling $750 each. Additionally, Judge Howell ordered the four defendants to stay away from the building which formally served as Venezuela’s embassy in Washington D.C., threatening them with 30 day jail terms if they failed to meet the conditions of their probation.
Before sentencing the defendants, Judge Howell delivered an unhinged law-and-order tirade, personally denigrating each of them and declaring her intention to make an example of them in order to prevent future protest actions which challenged U.S. government policy.
The prosecution of the EPC final four resulted in a mistrial in February of this year, when the jurors were unable to reach a verdict. The U.S. government then offered to drop the charges in order to avoid a re-trial. Under the negotiated deal, all four defendants pleaded guilty to a low-level, Class B misdemeanor charge of “incommoding,” which falls under local D.C. jurisdiction, in exchange for the dropping of federal charges which had alleged they interfered with the ability of U.S. authorities to provide protective services on embassy grounds.
“I proudly pleaded guilty to obstructing imperialism, neoliberal fascism and white supremacy, and will continue to stand alongside the Venezuelan people and other targets of U.S. military and police violence at home and abroad,” Adrienne Pine, an American University Professor of Anthropology, told The Grayzone shortly following the court’s announcement.
“As the deadly violence of militarized police forces around this country over the past week in particular have made abundantly clear, now more than ever we must draw attention to the inextricable links between imperialist violence and the violence against brown, black and indigenous communities here in the United States. I would not think twice if given the chance again to put my body on the line against such racist violence, which has already killed so many of my friends,” Pine added.
Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician and organizer with Popular Resistance who was arrested in the embassy, told The Grayzone she is “proud of all of the people in the Embassy Protection Collective and the ongoing work to build international solidarity and demand our country become a positive participant in the global community, not an exploiter and aggressor.”
An unhinged law-and-order tirade by an Obama-appointed judge
Flowers and Pine’s reactions stood in stark contrast to the unhinged and downright inaccurate lecture Judge Howell delivered shortly before announcing her sentencing decision, during which she expressed confusion as to why U.S. authorities acted with restraint when handling the Embassy Protection Collective.
Throughout Wednesday’s hearing, which this reporter attended through a sometimes difficult to decipher conference call, Judge Howell explained that because she spends most of her days sending poor black and brown people to prison, she was convinced the white and highly educated members of the EPC final four were riding on “privilege” and “entitlement” in order to avoid jail time.
Howell expressed astonishment that U.S. Secret Service and D.C. police had not met the non-violent embassy protectors with an iron fist, suggesting her wish for a Trumpian, military-style assault on the leftist demonstrators. She bizarrely sought to contrast the brutal treatment of protesters on display during the recent wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations with the police’s supposedly velvet-glove handling of the embassy standoff.
Judge Howell was apparently unaware of the numerous instances of police brutality surrounding events at the embassy, particularly the violent arrests police made of Veterans for Peace President Gerry Condon, who attempted to toss a cucumber to protesters inside the embassy, and Dean Murville, an elderly local peace activist who sought to bring toothbrushes to embassy protectors