An “online video storm” seeking to put pressure on Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel saw support from people from across the country.
Dozens of Arizona lawmakers and residents raised their voices on social media Wednesday, demanding that charges be dropped against protesters arrested during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year.
Bruce Franks Jr., a police reform advocate and one of the individuals arrested in the 2020 protests, told ABC15 earlier this month that he believed he was targeted by police.
An investigation by ABC15 found that prosecutors in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office created a “fictional gang” in order to bring charges against protesters for their involvement in the demonstrations, which erupted in Phoenix and across the country following the killing of George Floyd.
MCAO announced earlier this week that a former judge will conduct an outside review of the gang charges.
Mass Liberation Arizona, an offshoot of the national grassroots organizing effort to end mass incarceration, posted a call to action Tuesday asking people to participate in an “online video storm” to put pressure on Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel over the charges.
By Wednesday morning, many had answered the call under the hashtag #DropTheChargesMCAO. An Action Network petition calling for Adel to drop charges against protesters also had 1,060 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
The movement also saw at least one star lending his voice to the cause.
Actor Mark Ruffalo, in a video posted to Franks’ Twitter account, spoke directly to Adel about the movement.
“We are demanding that you drop all the charges for the protests in Phoenix last year and fire every prosecutor involved in these false charges,” Ruffalo said in the video.
Arizona Lawmakers, Residents Lobby for Accountability and Transparency
Many Arizona lawmakers also came out in support Wednesday, calling for accountability and asking for charges to be dropped.
Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, said dismissal of the charges was the first step to ensuring accountability, transparency and a strategic defunding of the police departments that have “wreaked havoc on our communities.”
“The right to protest is the last resort against oppression, and it must be protected,” Quezada said.
Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said she was speaking out for the more than 20 people who are still facing charges for their role in the demonstrations.
Salman called attention to the fictional gang charges and denounced all other outstanding charges against the protesters.
“We must hold the officers who lied under oath accountable, and the prosecutors involved in these cases should be fired,” Salman said.
Phoenix City Councilmember Carlos Garcia, who’s been a vocal advocate for police reform, said the officers from the Phoenix Police Department also needed to be held accountable for their role in the protests.
“The City of Phoenix Police Department needs to be held accountable for the lies that were told on the stand, and the prosecutors who pursued these fraudulent charges,” Garcia said.
Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Phoenix, also questioned the office’s transparency, saying that questions raised by the community related to the charges had gone unanswered.
“If we are expected to ask the people to have faith in the system, the County Attorney’s Office must fire all prosecutors involved in the protest charges and hold every officer who lied under oath accountable,” Mendez said.
Julie Gunnigle, who narrowly lost election to Adel for Maricopa County Attorney in November, said in a video Wednesday that charges should have never been brought against the protesters.
Gunnigle has been a vocal critic of the office’s lack of transparency.
“End the political prosecutions that this office has become known for,” Gunnigle said. “Now is the time for actual transparency, and meaningful accountability. Drop the charges.”
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said earlier this month that it would dismiss charges against several of the protesters that were arrested during an Oct. 17 protest.
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