Utah Woman Faces Life in Prison After Allegedly Buying Red Protest Paint

Madalena McNeil is accused of buying red paint before a protest. Under aggressive new criminal charges, it could mean she spends the rest of her life in prison.

McNeil, 28, was among four people charged Tuesday for their alleged actions at a July Salt Lake City, Utah, protest over a district attorney's decision that the fatal police shooting of a young man was justified. Protesters allegedly splashed red paint on the DA's office, broke windows, and hung signs calling for justice for the slain man.

But instead of merely charging the protesters with vandalism or even rioting, that same DA used a charging enhancement to claim they operated as a gang. Under the new charges, the demonstrators face up to life in prison. It's the latest in a pattern of harsh measures that ratchet up potential penalties by treating protesters like a criminal conspiracy. [...]

McNeil and fellow protesters were met with police in riot gear when they arrived at the DA's office, she said. Footage she filmed from the event shows the police line charging protesters with their riot shields. [...]

A criminal complaint accuses McNeil of positioning herself to shove one of the shield-toting officers, and of buying the red paint that protesters allegedly splashed outside the DA's office. She and six other protesters face criminal mischief and rioting charges, which usually cap at a second-degree felony [...] But Gill, the DA who was the focus of protesters' ire in the first place, enhanced the charges using a provision intended for gangs. Under the new enhancements, which apply to "offenses committed in concert with two or more persons or in relation to a criminal street gang," the protesters can face up to life in prison, if convicted. [...]

Groth and McNeil also questioned the potential conflict of interest of Gill issuing sentencing enhancements against protesters who were demonstrating against him.

In most states, a felony conviction means that you can never vote again, so you get criminalization of dissent and disenfranchisement in one convenient fascist package.

One tweet tried to identify a cop -- then five people were charged with felony harassment:

A New Jersey police department is pursuing cyber harassment charges against five people in connection with a protest photo uploaded to Twitter in June. Complaints were served against the original tweeter and four other people who retweeted the message, alleging that they caused the officer to fear for the safety of his family.

It's an unprecedented use of anti-harassment laws, coming amid a nationwide law enforcement backlash against anti-police brutality activism. [...]

The Nutley Police Department filed its complaints in late July over a tweet posted during a June 26th protest. The now-deleted message included a photo of a masked on-duty police officer with a request that "If anyone knows who this bitch is throw his info under this tweet." Because of the mask, the officer is not readily identifiable from the photograph, and there do not appear to be any replies revealing his identity. [...]

The department charged Sziszak and others on behalf of Detective Peter Sandomenico, who the complaint identifies as the officer in the tweet. It alleges that the photo and accompanying caption threatened the officer "acting in the performance of his duties, causing Detective Sandomenico to fear that harm will come to himself, family, and property."

Once this blew up they panicked and dropped the charges like the bullying cowards they are.

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