Articles Tagged with protestors

While defense lawyers attempt to get through the nearly 100 cases involved with the Dakota Access protests, the sudden imprisonment of two activists came as a shock to them, making them wonder if the state has decided to be vindictive.

Alex Simon, 27, a teacher from New Mexico claims that he was singled out and unjustly arrested. He served 13 out of the 18-day sentence for locking arms with activists against a police line on October 22, 2016. That same day, 140 others were arrested with him. Aside from himself, only one other activist who received a jail sentence, 65-year-old Mary Redway, a retired environmental planner from Rhode Island.  Ms. Redway claims she was jailed immediately, and she served four days inside the women’s booking cellblock of the Burleigh Morton Detention Center. In fact, the booking guard refuse to believe that she had been jailed for “disorderly conduct” since no one ever receives a jail sentence for disorderly conduct.

So far, 310 cases for activists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy have been dismissed or acquitted. An additional 107 activists made plea deals, and 24 cases have had pre-trial diversions, and one case has made an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court.  Another 109 cases are inactive, and 259 cases remain to be tried, calendared until July 2018. In total, the Water Protector Legal Collective reports that 854 people were arrested during the encampment of the pipeline.

Judge Merrick, one of the judges on the case, was one of the petitioners who attempted to change the Supreme Court law to stop out-of-state attorneys from defending out-of-state defendants.  The petition failed after the North Dakota Supreme Court received 536 comments against changing the law. In October Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) petitioned Jeff Sessions to help prosecute “to the fullest extent of the law any criminal who try to destroy energy infrastructure.”

Protest Charges

Despite our First Amendment right to free speech, law enforcement officials can stick a number of charges against you just to retaliate against you for protesting.

They include but are not limited to:

  • Criminal trespass
  • Loitering
  • Incitement/rioting
  • Blocking a sidewalk or sweet
  • Failure to cooperate with lawful orders from police
  • Disorderly conduct
  • You can also be charged with violations of city noise ordinances

If you are arrested at a protest, do not resist the arrest; police will certainly place additional charges against you if you do. You do have the right to ask why you are being arrested. Beyond that, you have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise your right to ask for a lawyer immediately once you are taken into the booking facility. You should have the number of your criminal defense attorney ready, and should not go to a protest these days without being prepared with your own lawyer. Continue reading

In a big announcement, the Lee County Attorney’s Office dismissed the remaining charges against the protestors arrested last fall while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Over 50 people, ranging from their mid-teens to their late 70s, were arrested on charges including trespassing, interference with official acts, and disorderly conduct. While some pled guilty and agreed to pay their respective fines, the majority of protestors pled not guilty and requested a jury trial.

In more than one instance, journalists covering the protests were arrested along with legal observers and protestors. Assistant Lee County Attorney Clinton Boddicker dropped the charges against one reporter, Aaron Murphy, along with those against 10 other protestors that only had one charge against them.   

Those with more than one charge were offered a different deal. One woman, Jessica Garraway of Minneapolis, had her trespassing charge dropped if she agreed to plead guilty to a charge of interference with official acts and pay the maximum fine.

One of the reasons the County likely dropped the charges was in the interests of court efficiency.  “‘If they all ended up having a jury trial, I would probably have had a jury trial every week between now and October, and we still probably would not have reached all the cases,” said Boddicker.

For those who did not show up to court, Lee County says it is planning to issue arrest warrants.

The Press is Supposed to have Reporter’s Privilege

Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the freedom of speech and press, and therefore the right of newspapers to cover and publish a story are protected rights that should be free from government interference. However, it is more of a legal gray area when reporters have to news-gather, and go to the protest, or step over a police line to get their photos and story.

Assuming the protest is in a public forum, reporters should not need credentials to cover it—they enjoy a right of access along with the public under the umbrella of the First Amendment.  However, the government is allowed to institute time, place, and manner restrictions on free speech activities.

In those instances, it is recommended that a reporter get credentials or a ‘press pass’ from police departments to be able to cover a protest. Credentials will allow a reporter to cover the protest, but not partake in it. It also does not guarantee that he or she can cross police lines. This means that reporters also cannot “commit” crimes while trying to do their job, such as trespassing. In any event, it can be assumed that police and the current Administration will seek to limit press access and increase retaliation against reporters covering a contentious protest. If you are a reporter, it is recommended you have a criminal defense attorney on-hand if you know you are going to covering an event with high arrest rates. Continue reading

As if this year’s race to the White House could not get any more dramatic or contentious, Kansas City police in Missouri pepper sprayed a group of protestors outside Donald Trump’s rally.  According to the Kansas City police, they did it to break up two large groups of people who were ready to fight. They also claimed that they arrested two people for failing to follow the law.  Meanwhile, inside the event, Trump was continually interrupted by protesters, who were quickly escorted out by police. The move by police marks yet another moment of conflict at a Trump rally. Chaos ensued earlier in the same week when he canceled his campaign stop at the University of Illinois in Chicago after protesters flooded the pavilion.

Pepper spraying protestors is a rare occurrence when it come to presidential campaign events, but it is becoming more and more common in this election cycle. This week, the NYPD pepper sprayed a crowd of protestors that were marching towards the Trump International Tower. There were thousands of protesters walking from Central Park to the Trump tower.

Trump has said during his Kansas rally that he wants charges filed against all the people protesting him. In addition to police force, his rallies bore witness to violence in Arizona and Ohio, and his campaign is notorious for violent and racially charged rhetoric.