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FACTDROP: WSO: A Parade of Protesters, in a Court Just for Them


WSO: A Parade of Protesters, in a Court Just for Them

Πηγή: New York Times
By John Eligon
Nov 3 2011

Inside a blandly lighted courtroom, a lawyer stood before packed rows of protesters who had been arrested in September, laying out their options: They could take the prosecution’s offer to have their cases dismissed after six months, or ask for a trial.

The third option was to plead guilty.

“I don’t recommend that as a solution,” the lawyer, Martin R. Stolar, said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

The Occupy Wall Street movement reached a new phase on Thursday, as the first of hundreds of protesters arrested in Manhattan made their initial court appearances — even as over a dozen more were arrested outside the headquarters of Goldman Sachs in Lower Manhattan after they ignored the police’s order to leave.

While the movement has been seen as fluid and spontaneous, what happened in Manhattan Criminal Court was anything but that. The protesters were brought to a specially designated court, and all the more than 60 arraignments were over in about two hours.

About 85 percent of the protesters who appeared before Judge Neil Ross said they wanted to take their cases to trial; only 9 of the 65 defendants accepted the prosecution’s offer to dismiss their charges after six months if they did not get rearrested.

Two protesters had misdemeanor charges. The rest had been charged with disorderly conduct, a violation that is not a crime. One protester was not offered the deal; another, John Farley, who writes for WNET, had his case dismissed.

“Yeah, awesome,” one of the protesters in the courtroom whispered. Applause quickly followed, to which a court officer quickly responded: “That will not be tolerated. Express yourselves outside.”

Fourteen of the protesters did not show up and must appear on the next court date, Jan. 9, before warrants for their arrest go into effect.

Thursday’s court date was for the protesters arrested during a march near Union Square on Sept. 24. Those arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1 will have to show up in court later this month.

“The Manhattan district attorney’s office fully supports the tradition of civil disobedience and that all individuals have the right to protest, if they do so in a law-abiding way,” Michele Bayer, an assistant district attorney, said in court.

But the defendants in this case “took to the streets in the area of Union Square, disrupting traffic and preventing cars and other vehicles from being able to get by,” Ms. Bayer added.

One after the other, defendants had their lawyers tell Judge Ross whether they would go to trial. Mr. Stolar, a lawyer for the protesters, said that in the case of Christopher Soucy, he believed the complaint to be technically deficient.

“It said that he blocked vehicular traffic by standing on the sidewalk,” Mr. Stolar said, drawing chuckles from supporters.

Judge Ross told Mr. Stolar that he would have to put in a written motion to dismiss, and the case was scheduled for Jan. 9, the same date scheduled for all of the other defendants who chose to go to trial.

Elizabeth Mahony, an 18-year-old freshman at Sarah Lawrence College, was one of the nine protesters who accepted the prosecution’s offer, known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. She explained that she wanted “to focus on school.”

Ms. Mahony’s parents, who live in Boston and were in court with her, said that when other people hear of their daughter’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street, they say, “Oh, you must be so proud.”

John Mahony, her father, said, “We haven’t seen this kind of activity since the ’60s.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg encouraged protesters to report crimes taking place at their encampment in Zuccotti Park, saying on Thursday that he was concerned by reports that the protesters were trying to police themselves, rather than informing law enforcement officials. Such behavior, he said, “allows the criminal to strike again, making all of us less safe.”

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