Occupy Movement Wins Spate of Legal Battles, but Faces New Challenges Ahead as "NATO 3" Face Terrorism Charges
Saturday, 19 May 2012 10:16 By JA Myerson, Truthout | Report
Much of the recent news on the legal front has provided the Occupy movement with bursts of momentum. The first victory was the acquittal of Alexander Arbuckle, an NYU student arrested in January (ironically while completing a photojournalism project aimed at exploring the NYPD’s side of an
Two days later, a similar ruling came down in favor of OWS protester Jessica Hall, who was arrested on November 17th at the intersection of William and Pine streets– the same day and location of my arrest. Like Arbuckle, Hall was accused of obstructing traffic, and like Arbuckle, Hall’s case was made for her by video documentation, including the NYPD’s own, showing that traffic was blocked by the police. “The police arrested people willy-nilly without any determination that they had actually committed the offenses that they were charged with,” one of Hall’s attorneys, Marty Stolar, told The Village Voice’s Nick Pinto. “That's what tends to criminalize protest activity.”
At the same time, Obama-appointed judge Katherine Forrest handed down what may be a landmark decision finding two controversial indefinite detention sections of the National Defense Authorization Act facially unconstitutional and serving injunctions against President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and others’ enforcement of the provisions. The decision surprised not only me, who watched some of the testimony in the courtroom, but also legal observers as keen as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who called the decision a “sweeping victory for the plaintiffs.”
“People have acknowledged that Occupy changed the conversation, said Andy Stepanian, a publicist handing press relations for the plaintiffs, “but now they’re actually changing law.” Stepanian called the grassroots protest organized through Occupy Wall Street working groups critical to the outcome of the trial, brought by, among others, OWS supporter Chris Hedges, Occupy London organizer Kai Wargalla and Alexa O’Brien of
As encouraging as these developments are, an episode unfolding here in
The three activists charged with terrorism-related crimes had previously posted a video of Chicago Police intimidating and threatening them with physical violence while they searched the protesters’ vehicle. The Occupy Chicago Twitter feed commented, “Police are retaliating by charging these men with serious terrorism charges because they posted the video and it spread.” The activists’ NLG attorney Sarah Glesomino declared “Charging these people who are here to peacefully protest against NATO for terrorism when in reality the police have been terrorizing activists in
Jeff Smith, an Occupy Wall Street protester, told Truthout, “I fully expect them to put an OWS person in jail to try and scare people,” but added that this looked to him like “a ******** charge.” Be that as it may, American laws regarding terrorism cases have grown to endow the government with considerable advantages in the decade since 9/11, posing a dark specter for Occupy Wall Street activists. Political prisoners, from anarchists in the late 19th Century to communists during the Red Scare to Black Panthers to a host of other dissident movements, are a staple of American history. Will we see Occupy’s first political prisoners in the coming weeks and months?
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J.A. Myerson is a reporter for Truthout and Citizen Radio. He is writing a book on 2011, to be published in Spring 2012.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs