Federal prosecutors lost their case April 5 against a 35-year-old man arrested for failing to obey a federal officer's order to leave a Patriot Prayer rally on June 30, 2018.
John Hacker tried to enter Terry Schrunk Plaza during a protest organized by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer. A Federal Protective Service officer told Hacker he could not enter the plaza and ordered him to leave the area.
According to a trial brief filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office, officers suspected Hacker might be connected to a group of antifascist protesters, or Antifa. Hacker told the agents he wanted to observe and film the Patriot Prayer supporters.
Hacker's defense relied on videos that contradicted the arresting officer's account of the event.
"The videos also directly contradicted the testimony of Hacker's arresting officer who testified that he clearly remembered arresting Hacker—who is 6'3″ with severe facial burn scarring—as Hacker was being escorted out of the rally by Proud Boys in an environment that included a group of black-clad Antifa members with helmets and shields at the entrance of the rally demanding to come in the rally," Hacker's lawyer said in a statement. "The video showed that testimony to be grossly wrong. Mr. Hacker never entered the rally. He was never escorted out by Proud Boy members. There was no group of black-clad Antifa members with helmets and shields."
A judge ruled the federal agents did not have lawful grounds to keep Hacker out of the plaza. She found Hacker not guilty of failing to obey a lawful order.
"Mr. Hacker wanted to attend the rally as a social-media journalist to film, take pictures, and report on the rally on Twitter and other social media," says Kenneth Kreusher, Hacker's defense attorney. "Mr. Hacker was known to be critical of Patriot Prayer and their associates. Federal law enforcement excluded Mr. Hacker from the rally at the request of the Proud Boys, who were doing security for Patriot Prayer."
During the rally, law enforcement officers coordinated with Patriot Prayer leaders to determine who would or would not be allowed in the plaza.
FPS officers later fired pepper balls at counterprotesters who had gathered across the street from the plaza.
Antifa and Patriot Prayer supporters nevertheless clashed in the street several hours into the rally. Groups of Proud Boys, wearing matching polo shirts and far-right symbols, beat people with flag poles. The men beat a counter-demonstrator badly enough to crack his skull and send him to the hospital.