The documentary comes as part of subMedia's ongoing Trouble series, which is meant to be watched in groups in the hopes that the post-film discussion sparks collective organizing. Coming in at a digestible 37 minutes, the film features interviews with DisruptJ20 organizers and members of key groups, like DC's Black Lives Matter chapter, as well as with defendants themselves.
"Like most of our work, we wanted to create a document that movements can use to help organize in the future, but also to serve as marker of one of the most important political trials in recent memory," Mowburn explained. "In this case, the lessons learned are that solid security practices and a culture of solidarity can help keep our communities of resistance safe. We also learned that when 200+ activists facing decades in prison, instead of defending themselves individually, decide to put their 200+ lawyers at the service of all the accused, then you have a legal team that can outgun the US Department of Justice. Solidarity pays off."
As uplifting as the film's ending is, Mowburn is also quick to offer a reminder that, despite the fact that the good guys won this time, the worst is far from over. "The J20 case is a timely example [of] how far the state will go to crush revolutionary movements," they said. "This is not something that happened years ago, but a case that just wrapped up in July. Trump is still in power and Kerkhoff got a promotion. So this is not going away, and the lessons learned are still fresh."
Those lessons remain at the forefront of many antifascist activists' minds as we close out a year of rapidly escalating right-wing violence, from the MAGA Bomber to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the third consecutive year of increasing hate crimes across the nation. Mowburn predicts that street-level activism will become more volatile in the US, and that adapting to this reality is crucial to the survival of any real resistance movement. "This applies to the ever-changing legal reality at the state and federal level," they explain, "where we see lawmakers making moves to further criminalize activists, not to mention the many cops who have sympathies with, or are part of, far-right groups."
At the very least, J20 had a happy ending for the defendants -- and, as far as Mowburn is concerned, it lit a revolutionary spark that continues to burn across Trump's America.
"The state wanted to send a decisive message that it will not be fucked with, specially during an event as holy as the inauguration," Mowburn says. "They failed. The prosecutor and the Department of Justice hugely underestimated the work and the networks that anarchists have been nurturing for years. While it's no small thing to be spending the rest of your life in prison, the people who took to the streets on January 20 knew how high the stakes were, and felt it was worth gambling with their freedom. We owe a lot of the resistance we saw in the months that followed to the brave people who did what they did on J20."