Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Only 1 in 18 convention arrests end in convictions so far

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at http://www.DemocraticConventionWatch.com

Long long ago in a galaxy far far away we covered a little thing called the Democratic National Convention. Court cases are still going on for the arrests that were made.

The lawyers say that their clients were merely bystanders or students who were documenting the protests and got caught up in the crowd and couldn't leave before police blocked the exit routes.

One hundred and six people were arrested.

Police have testified that they blocked off the streets because they had heard anarchists planned to move from Civic Center park toward the 16th Street Mall to cause trouble at delegate hotels and other businesses.

The Aug. 25 incident was the only time during the DNC that mass arrests took place. In contrast, police did not arrest anyone during an unplanned and unpermitted protest held by Iraq Veterans Against the War that snaked through Denver.

Defendants represented by the People's Law Project have been charged with a municipal-code violation of obstructing the street and face a $141 fine.

Of the 18 cases that have gone to trial, the city has won a conviction in one.

Another 13 people will go on trial next week, and there are another 30 cases coming up, said Brian Vicente, director of the People's Law Project. - Denver Post

My favorite story is from 80 year old Cecil Bethea who was walking to his bus stop from the library and wound up getting arrested.

Bethea, a Denver resident for 50 years, told the jury he had just left the Denver Public Library and was walking across Civic Center when he saw a large crowd on Bannock Street and decided he wanted to try to see a DNC protest, "not to participate, just to see what was going on."

All of a sudden, he said he saw the crowd moving toward him, some of them running.

"Well, I thought, the meeting is over! What was extraordinary is that half of them had handkerchiefs tied around their faces. It looked like a Butch Cassidy look-a-like contest," he said, as jurors laughed.

"Next morning, when I read the paper, I found out they were the anarchists!" he said, his voice revealing traces of his native Alabama.

Bethea said he was walking down 15th Street to catch the mall shuttle to his bus when he became caught up in the crowd. He said 15th was blocked by a line of police in riot gear at Court Place.