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More than 200 Inauguration Day protesters were charged with felony rioting

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More than 200 people arrested during Inauguration Day protests in Washington, D.C., were charged with felony rioting, the city's U.S. Attorney's office said Monday.

Of the 230 people arrested Friday, all but one faced felony riot charges, which can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $25,000. The other person, a college student from San Antonio, was charged with pointing a laser pointer at an aircraft. 

Some reports claim innocent observers were swept up in the mass arrests.

The arrests were tied to a four-block area between the intersections of the city's 13th and O streets NW and 12th and L streets NW. City law says that if, during a riot, a person is seriously injured or more than $5,000 worth of property is damaged, everyone who "willfully incited or urged others to engage in the riot" can face felony rioting charges. 

However, lawyer Mark Goldstone said police "basically identified a location that had problems and arrested everyone in that location," regardless of whether or not they were actually rioting.

I am media and not a protester.
Alexander Rubenstein, RT America reporter

Two of the people who were arrested said they were working for news agencies. One said he was filming for Vocativ. The other said he was reporting for RT America

Jeffrey Light, who sued Friday over the arrests, said many of those arrested were protesting peacefully. He believes the felony charges are an attempt to get leverage for plea bargains on lesser offenses.

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Riot police spray tear gas during the demonstration in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Interim city police chief Peter Newsham said he was "very pleased" with how police handled the protests, saying they only used force, including pepper spray and rubber "sting balls," when necessary. 

These charges are absolutely horrifying. They are just trying to stop any resistance to the Trump administration.
Samantha Miller, Disrupt J20 Collective organizer

But some observers were disturbed by the charges, suggesting they could have a chilling effect on future opposition to the Trump administration. 

Samantha Miller, an organizer for the Disrupt J20 Collective, told AlterNet the charges were "horrifying."

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Protesters fill the streets of downtown Los Angeles as they gather for the Women's March against President Donald Trump Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. The march is being held in solidarity with similar events taking place in Washington and around the nation. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

No arrests were made at the Women's March in D.C. on Saturday, D.C. Homeland Security Director Christopher Geldart said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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