WTO Legal Update

As prosecutors scramble to try the last few misdemeanor cases involving WTO protestors, the Direct Action Network Legal Team is claiming victory for jail solidarity and the 570 people arrested on December 1 of last year.

Most of the misdemeaner cases accusing protestors of “failure to disperse,” and “obstruction of justice” were dropped in January. DAN attorneys credit jail solidarity for the sucesses in court. By refusing to give personal information such as names and addresses, refusing to waive rights to a speedy trial and a trial by jury and by failing to cooperate with the police and jail guards in any way possible, arrestees were able to jam the cells and courts long enough to leave the prosecution on its knees.

The five or six cases still pending must be tried by the first week of March or they too will be dropped. Once the misdemeaner cases come to a close, its on to the felonies.

The prosecution just lost the case it was most hopeful about. The city had accused

Seattle resident Eric Larson of assaulting an officer. The police claimed that he didn’t react to the teargas, concluding that he must have been on drugs. A videotape showed no trace of Larson touching a cop, but according to DAN attorneys there is a “nice shot of a cop grabbing him by the testicles.” The court aquitted him, devastating the prosecution.

Meanwhile DAN, the Lawyers Guild, the ACLU and a few private firms are busy filing class-action law suits. The ACLU is focusing on the unconstitutionality of the “No-Protest Zone” which spanned 50 city blocks. The suit claims that the protestors right to speech was violated by Seattle Mayor Paul Shelly who declared martial law on November 30. Several private attorneys are taking individual cases of excessive force, brutality and rubber bullet use. DAN is also working on class action suits aimed at getting compensation for arrested and non-arrested people who were gassed and shot throughout the week of the meetings.