Five activists from Occupy Boston were scheduled to begin trial this Monday. But today, without warning, the Suffolk County District Attorney dropped the charges against them and 22 others who refused to take the deals offered by prosecutors.
When I heard this, I thought it was time to celebrate. I was there at the Boston Police raids in October 2011 and December 2011. I’ve seen how looming legal action has taken its toll on good people from Occupy Boston. Urszula Masny-Latos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and a woman I’ve grown to trust, even said the following in a press release:
We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.
But this dropping of charges isn’t being done to exonerate the activists involved. It’s being done to avoid giving the arrestees and their attorneys a platform. Reading more of Nation Lawyer Guild press release, it’s easy to see why the District Attorney wants to unlock horns with Occupy Boston and the NLG:
Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government. In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored. The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.
Mitt Romney and Robert Gallery? That could have been a very interesting day in court. I’ll be watching closely to see what happens next. Some folks are talking about the possibility of a civil trial. In the meanwhile, take a look at the rest of the NLG’s press release here and this intense post by Allison “Una Spenser” Nevitt at the Daily Kos that points out some serious problems with a report given by the Boston Globe.
If you are sympathetic to the ideas that fueled the Occupy movement, please donate to the NLG. Without their constant and continued assistance, we basically would have been at the mercy of the cops and the courts. A direct link for that is here.