Nearly six months after their arrests during a December 17 Occupy Wall Street protest at Duarte Square, eight activists accused of trespassing finally went on trial Monday.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at Duarte Square back in December to mark the three-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Those present included the OWS hunger strikers, who at the time, were in their fifteenth day of fasting.
On Monday, the Guardian’s Ryan Devereaux described a packed courthouse, filled with Occupy supporters who spilled out into the hallway, as they awaited to hear the testimonies of the New York City police officers responsible for arresting the protesters in a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church.
Trinity is one of the largest landholders in Manhattan, and the revenue from the church’s real estate holdings funds the parish’s work. This dual function has placed Trinity at the center of controversy when Occupy called upon the church to grant the movement sanctuary—indeed, Trinity provided a plethora of services to protesters in the initial months of the movement—but the church’s relationship with protesters has since grown strained. (Photo: retired bishop George Packard, one of the D17 arrestees.)
The church has claimed it’s seeking “non-criminal dispositions” and does not wish protesters to be sentenced to jail.
Attorneys for the defendants questioned the orders received by officers to make arrests, whether they noticed “open to the public” signs posted around the property and whether Trinity Church had the authority to order police to clear the area of demonstrators.
Trinity Church has said it is “not seeking retribution or punishment as a result of the OWS actions of December 17 at Duarte Square”.
In a statement posted to the church’s website Rector James Cooper claimed that Trinity had requested the district attorney seek “non-criminal dispositions without fines or incarceration be granted to all”.
“Trinity has welcomed and continues to welcome OWS members, like all members of its community, to its facilities in the Wall Street area”, he said.
Meanwhile, the so-called “NATO 3” appeared in a Chicago courtroom Tuesday to face terrorism-related charges accusing them of plotting to attack President Obama’s campaign headquarters and other targets with Molotov cocktails.
Defense lawyers say the three men (Jared Chase, Brian Church and Brent Betterly) plan to enter not-guilty pleas.