PHOENIX - Demonstrators arrested at a recent protest are now being accused of "assisting a criminal street gang."
This all stems from a protest against police brutality in Downtown Phoenix on Oct. 17. During the protest, the protesters were seen holding umbrellas out in front of them. Police say at some point, the demonstrators threw smoke bombs at officers and knocked down barricades. In all, 18 attendees, including 15 adults and three minors, were arrested.
Besides allegations of assisting a criminal street gang, new allegations tacked on for the 15 protesters also include aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
"This is political imprisonment, and we demand that these charges be dropped," said Jacob Raiford with The W.E. Rising Project. "We understand that these are just trumped-up charges meant to suppress a movement."
Activists say the protest was peaceful.
"They were not a part of anything violent," said one activist. "They were not there to antagonize. They were simply there to be passionate about human rights."
Activists demand release of protester
On Oct. 30, activists in Phoenix called for the immediate release of 25-year-old Suvarna Ratnam, who has been in a jail cell for more than a week.
Ratnam's supporters say she has tested positive for tuberculosis while in the Estrella Jail. They say her medications have been withheld, and then given in incorrect dosages.
Activists claim they are being targeted by Phoenix Police for using their first amendment rights.
"We're also demanding from this mayor and this police chief an end to the political prosecution that is happening. An end to the targeting of activists they do not agree with," said Viri Hernandez, Executive Director of Poder In Action.
FOX 10 has reached out to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for comment on the new charges, but officials have yet to comment.
Meanwhile, all individuals facing the additional charges will be arraigned on the morning of Nov. 3.