City, News

All charges dropped for Occupy Boston protesters

The remaining 24 cases stemming from the Occupy Boston protests in Dewey Square in 2011 were resolved Friday, with prosecutors dropping all charges.

Prosecutors considered the other cases stemming from the Greenway encampment, as well as the individual cases relative to those involving firearm violations, violent crime and other offenses also pending in the Boston Municipal Court, according to a press release from the Suffolk County district attorney’s office on Friday.

The Occupy Boston defendants had been charged with unlawful assembly, trespassing, or both, according to the Suffolk County DA’s office.

“We were arrested for exercising our constitutionally protected rights to assemble, to express protected speech and to petition the government,” said Andrea Hill, one of the defendants scheduled to face trial on Monday, in a press release from the National Lawyers Guild.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk DA’s office, said after the defendants were arrested, they were offered a disposition of pre-trial probation. Under this disposition, good behavior for a year from the defendants would get the case dismissed and nothing would be noted on the criminal record of the defendants.

Additionally, the defendants were also offered an amendment to civil proceedings, in which all criminal charges would be dismissed.

Although most protesters took one of these options, 24 defendants insisted upon criminal charges, only to file motions to dismiss these criminal charges twice — in October 2011 and December 2011, Wark said.

The NLG, which represented the Occupy Boston defendants, claimed the decision to drop all charges amounted to realization by the prosecution that criminal charges against the protesters were unconstitutional.

“This action amounts to an implicit acknowledgement of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges brought against almost 200 Occupy Boston participants,” stated a Friday press release from the NLG. “By declining to pursue charges further, the state has finally admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected activities.”

The Occupy protest movement, which came to prominence in the fall of 2011, featured occupation of public spaces and protest by citizens around the world on the issues of wealth disparity and government corruption.

At the height of the movement, Occupy made up 10 percent of the total news coverage in the U.S., according to an October 2011 Pew Research Center report.

Wark said even if legal action had continued and the protesters were found guilty, the punishment would be fairly marginal.

“I can tell you that we would not be seeking jail time,” Wark said. “Jail time was never contemplated by our office. It likely would have been probation for a guilty finding.”

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