Prosecutors called the scale of both the mass arrests and mass dismissals within a few short months unrivaled, at least since the civil rights protests of the early 1960s. With the police detaining hundreds of people in major cities, the arrests this year ended up colliding with the limitations of the court system.
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In the aftermath, prosecutors declined to pursue many of the cases because they concluded that the protesters were exercising their basic civil rights. Cases involving free speech or free assembly rarely succeed in court, according to prosecutors across the country, and the coronavirus pandemic also played a role in the decision. A wave of thousands of minor cases threatened to capsize courts already floundering under hefty lockdown backlogs.
There was also the recognition that law enforcement officers often use mass arrests as a technique to help clear the streets, not to confront illegal behavior.