Taylor Fuller, Scott Hedrick, Nathan Perry, Jeff Armstrong and Dustin Sawtelle, popularized as the “Berkeley 5” by local activists, were voted not guilty by a jury Monday.
This verdict comes after their hearings, which ran from Wednesday to Friday. The five men were put on trial for misdemeanor charges after allegedly assaulting Donald Trump supporter Daniel Quillinan during the “March 4 Trump” rally in 2017.
Perry faced an additional charge for the possession of a leaded cane, which was later dropped.
“People are here for the right of the community to defend itself against the rise of Trump, racism and fascism,” said Ronald Cruz, one of the defendants’ attorneys.
The five men allegedly punched and kicked Quillinan, although accounts of the event differ. As reported by Berkeleyside, Sawtelle said at the trial that Quillinan attacked the five men first, contradicting the court documents, which claimed that Quillinan did not provoke the men and only defended himself.
Local activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, said in a press release that Quillinan is a self-proclaimed fascist sympathizer — Quillinan stated during the trial that he is not a fascist nor a white nationalist.
The BAMN press release also called the Berkeley 5 “local heroes” and advocated for all charges against them to be dropped. Additionally, BAMN called for supporters to fill the courtroom, as the trial was public — the trial took place at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
Supporters of the Berkeley 5 reportedly laughed, sighed, hissed and had other outbursts during the trial, according to the Berkeleyside article. The courtroom reportedly burst into a round of applause at the end of defense attorney Shanta Driver’s closing arguments.
“It was a total victory for the movement,” Driver said. “From the pickets that took place, to the posters, to the support, it was a total victory.”
Prosecutor James Logan could not be reached for a comment.
Cruz and Driver said they believe they won the case for many reasons, including that the prosecution’s witnesses contradicted each other. One example of this, according to Cruz, is that Quillinan originally said one of his attackers had “red hair,” a trait none of the defendants bear.
Driver also said Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Jesse Grant changed his testimony multiple times throughout the hearings. She noted that she believes the jury wanted to send a message that Berkeley, Oakland and the Bay Area at large will protect those who stand up for free speech.
Moving forward, Cruz said the five men “made it clear” that they will continue protesting the national administration.
“It’s very difficult to imagine what it is to build a political movement that is a resistance to what is taking place now,” Driver said in her closing arguments, according to Berkeleyside.