Arrested Occupy protesters appear in court

November 7, 2011 7:32:42 PM PST
Occupy Oakland protesters arrested last week started appearing in court Monday to face criminal charges. Many say they weren't do anything wrong and never should have been arrested with those who were vandalizing businesses or fighting with police.

California Penal Code 409 makes it a crime to remain present at a place of riot or unlawful assembly after being told to disperse. Noah Zimmerman was arrested last week for ignoring the police order, but those charges were dropped Monday by the Alameda County district attorney. Zimmerman, who wanted his day in court, is disappointed.

"I accept responsibility for my actions," he said. "I thought it was non-violent, civil disobedience and it's my responsibility to accept the consequences of my actions."

Zimmerman was one of more than 100 people arrested during last week's demonstration -- a day that started peacefully but ended in a violent confrontation between police and protesters resulting in multiple arrests and criminal charges.

"I knew something was wrong when he didn't come home Wednesday," said Lynn Sorvari who was there to support her son Roy.

It's the first time many of those taken into custody would see a judge. Those who remain in police custody, like Sorvari's son, are among the protesters facing the most serious of charges, including destruction of property and vandalism -- one of the many acts some Occupy Oakland demonstrators believe are distracting from their message.

"I just want to see that he's alright and he's doing well and hopefully get him out of this mess," said Sorvari.

That may be difficult to do. According to their attorney, Roy is facing charges of unlawful assembly and battery against an officer.

"It's just not something he would do. This kid was a boy scout growing up. He's always been involved in community issues and trying to resolve conflict."

"I think they represent a small faction of the movement," said Cortt Dunlapp, a small business owner, who has seen his Awaken Caf? shop vandalized more than once and says the emotional toll is a black mark to the city's reputation that crimes committed by vandals create. He says that business owners like him -- those choosing to own and operate downtown -- have become collateral damage. "People like me suffer when downtown Oakland isn't aesthetically pleasing, when there's graffiti on things, when things are broken."

Last week's demonstration drew more than 7,000 people, including union members, teachers and students. Attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild will be representing many of the arrested protesters pro bono.


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