Another day, another Occupy Wall Street trial, another black eye for the police. Just two days after the first Occupy Wall Street protest case to go to trial ended with the NYPD’s version of events unraveling, the same thing happened again in New York Criminal Court this morning.
Jessica Hall, an Occupy Wall Street protester, was arrested on November 17 at the intersection of Williams and Pine streets in Lower Manhattan and charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic. Hall’s charges were the same as those of Alexander Arbuckle, who was acquitted on Tuesday.
But as in Arbuckle’s case, the police version of events was debunked; it wasn’t the person on trial who was preventing traffic from moving, but the police themselves.
On the stand, Hall’s arresting officer, Sgt. Michael Soldo, said he arrested her because she was blocking traffic. But as Soldo admitted under cross-examination, and as the NYPD’s own video documentation confirmed, it was actually the NYPD metal barricades running all the way across William Street that was preventing vehicles from passing.
At the time of her arrest, Hall was about a foot away from the police barricades.
After Soldo’s testimony, Hall’s lawyers, Marty Stolar and Elena Cohen, moved to dismiss. Judge Matthew Sciarrino agreed that the prosecution hadn’t made its case.
“The police arrested people willy-nilly without any determination that they had actually committed the offenses that they were charged with,” Stolar told the Voice afterwards. “That’s what tends to criminalize protest activity.”
Today’s ruling, coupled with Tuesday’s, have presented police efforts to criminalize protest activity “a temporary roadblock,” Stolar said, adding that the profusion of cameras at Occupy Wall Street protests have made it harder for police to get away with fabricating stories to justify arrests.
“I’ve seen this from the first arrests back in September,” Stolar said. “Some people are charged with resisting arrest (which ups the stakes to a crime) and police are claiming in complaints that people are kicking their legs and twisting their bodies. And then when you look at the video, it’s just not there — the people are being totally cooperative, and those charges were just put in there to make the person arrested look bad.”
Despite this pattern, Stolar said that police officers’ qualified immunity mean it’s unlikely they’ll suffer any consequences for misrepresenting the facts to justify their arrests of protesters.
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