Protesters arrested at Venezuelan Embassy face U.S. charges
U.S. authorities formally charged four demonstrators who were arrested by U.S. police inside the Venezuelan Embassy and appeared Friday in a federal court in Washington.
A federal judge issued arrest warrants earlier this week for the four protesters, including Kevin Bruce Zeese, 64, Margaret Ann Flowers, 57, Adrienne Pine, 49, and David Vernon Paul, 70.
The protesters, who all consider democratically elected Nicolás Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president, were charged with interfering with the protective functions of the State Department, according to prosecutors.
U.S. federal agents forcibly broke into Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. on May 16 and arrested the remaining four protesters, on behalf of Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido. The Trump administration, along with a dozen European countries and a majority of Latin American countries, recognize Guaido's legitimacy as Venezuela's interim president.
Carlos Vecchio, the Guaidó-appointed ambassador to the U.S., said his diplomatic mission would take control of the embassy Thursday evening and permitted U.S. federal authorities to enter the premises.
Authorities say agents with the Diplomatic Security Service used a loudspeaker earlier this week to inform the demonstrators that they were trespassing in the embassy and also posted trespassing notices on the doors. Prosecutors said the four refused to vacate the premises, leading to their arrests.
The U.S. raid on the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the arrest constitute a flagrant violation of the Vienna convention 1961 and represent a new low in conducting hemispheric affairs, according to Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a non-profit research organization based in Washington, D.C.
"This serious violation of a diplomatic mission and the arrest of its invited protectors undermines the sanctity of embassies not only in the United States but also throughout the world," the organization said in a recently published article.
(Cover: Police in tactical gear take positions outside the Venezuelan embassy where several activists remained holed up inside the embassy as part of a multi-week occupation in Washington, May 16, 2019. /VCG Photo. With input from agencies)