Scoopy’s Notebook, Week of March 15, 2018

Skaggs alert: April Fool’s trickster par excellence Joey Skaggs will really be “Trumping it up” this year. On Sun., April 1, at noon, he plans to convene a major “military parade” outside Trump Tower, assembling around 59th St. and Fifth Ave. “I’m amassing an army,” he told us. “I have Trump masks. I printed a couple hundred of them. I have soldiers with Trump faces. I have Kim Jong-un with a 9-foot-tall rocket. We’re all going to take a knee. I swear to you, I’m doing it.” The idea, obviously, is to satirize Donald Trump’s planned military parade, and Trump, in general. We tried to find out if Skaggs had a permit for his extravaganza, but didn’t hear back by press time.

Zack Winestine at the gym last week as he was getting ready to start his trial in Washington, D.C., after being charged with disrupting the Senate. The trial occurred over three days and concluded this Tuesday. Photo by Scoopy

Mr. Winestine goes to Washington: Village activist Zack Winestine successfully defended himself in court in Washington, D.C., over this past week after he was charged with disrupting the U.S. Senate during its vote on Trump’s tax bill back at the end of last year. Late on Tuesday afternoon, a jury in D.C. Superior Court found Winestine — a West Village filmmaker and writer — not guilty after they deliberated for six hours. He faced potential jail time of six months. Early on the morning of Dec. 20, as Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over the vote, 12 protesters in the Senate gallery stood and spoke out. They told their stories of how the Republican-backed tax bill would hurt their families and jeopardize their ability to keep their health insurance, while steering billions of dollars away from working families and into the pockets of corporations and the very wealthy. Upon Pence’s order, Winestine was one of the dozen arrested in the Senate gallery. Another 20 protesters were arrested during the vote in the House. “My trial for disrupting the U.S. Senate was an opportunity to highlight the terrible impacts the Republican tax bill will have on working families and on the nation’s healthcare system,” Winestine said, in a statement. “I am grateful for the moving testimony provided by healthcare activists Ady Barkin and Hilary McQuie. The U.S. government was unable to prove its case, and the fight against this unjust bill continues.” During the trial, Winestine also focused on the undemocratic process that led to the bill’s passage: Although the tax bill fundamentally reworks the U.S. economy, the Senate did not hold a single public hearing, he noted. As a result, he said, there was no opportunity for any outside organizations or experts to testify about the many negative impacts the measure would have. “Never before has a bill of this importance been passed outside of regular order with no hearings,” he noted. “When people spoke from the Senate gallery that night, it was the only way for the public to exercise its right to participate in the democratic process.” We bumped into Winestine last week at the McBurney YMCA on W. 14th St. — hey, activists have to keep in shape, too! — where he told us he chose to represent himself in court because he wanted to make sure he told his story correctly. He said he did have an attorney, Mark Goldstone, sitting with him, though, so that he could consult with him, if necessary. We followed up with him on the telephone early this week after he was found not guilty. “I tried to stress to the jury that these are not normal times, and we need to act in accordance with our conscience,” Winestine said. Thirty of the arrested protesters were released after agreeing to do community service and promising to stay away from Capitol Hill. Only Winestine and a woman were held. In the Village activist’s case, he believes it was because he was previously arrested at another protest at the Capitol, in 2008, when he decried illegal detentions and torture at Guantanamo. The woman pleaded guilty and received time served — the eight hours that she and Winestine spent behind bars after their arrests. He likely would have received the same sentence had he pleaded, but he said that, since he is self-employed, he had the time to fight the arrest in court. Also, Winestine added, taking a guilty plea simply would have let the federal government off “too easy.” Winestine said the feds produced three witnesses at trial, but they could not prove definitively that he did anything — such as shouting allegedly “loud, abusive language” or saying anything specific, or even getting up out of his seat — just that he was part of a number of people who were arrested. “They were unable to identify what my role was and when I was supposed to have spoken out,” he told us. “They had a lot of evidence of the group’s activities, but not really anything against individuals.” At this point, all Winestine is copping to is: “I was there, and I was there to protest the tax bill. A lot of people stood up, and I was arrested, and I totally endorse what they were doing.”


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