Police and prosecutors are getting fed up with Occupy protests and are employing a new tactic to crack down on them. Housto, Denver and New York have recently charged protestors with felony crimes instead of misdemeanors. Authorities may hope that amping up the consequences for civil disobedience will have a chilling effect on demonstrators.
When Houston prosecutors sought felony charges for seven protestors, a judge initially dismissed them. But this week a grand jury indicted the demonstrators for their role in blocking a Houston port exit. The indictment accuses them of using a “criminal instrument,” a PVC pipe. They bound themselves to it to delay arrest.
Act Up lists the most common charges resulting from civil disobedience as disorderly conduct and trespass, resisting arrest, and riot in the second degree. All are misdemeanors. When more than ten people are involved and an injury results, riot in the first degree, a felony, is the charge.