Judge issues scathing rebuke to prosecution at OccuBarn hearing

In a hearing of a case related to the structure erected by Occupy DC known as the “OccuBarn,” a DC Superior Court Judge dealt scathing criticism to the prosecution for failing to meet deadlines for filing motions. Calling their behavior “a gross dereliction of duty” and “lame,” Judge Elizabeth Wingo considered dismissing the case and even the unusual measure of conceding the case on Constitutional grounds. She’s now weighing whether to levy sanctions against them.

Even before addressing the preliminary issue of potential conflicts of interest arising from counsel Jeff Light’s representation of all defendants in the case, Judge Wingo immediately took the opportunity to announce her displeasure with the prosecution’s lapse. To Peter Saba, the attorney standing in for Assistant Attorney General Sean Farrelly, she said, “I realize this is not your case, so you’re somewhat a lamb to the slaughter.”

The OccuBarn was a 15-foot high modular wooden structure erected by Occupy DC at McPherson Park on December 4, 2011. While an emergency General Assembly debated whether to comply with the Park Police order to disassemble the OccuBarn, police went ahead and cordoned off the structure. Several individuals engaged in autonomous action, stationing themselves inside it, while six climbed into the rafters, remaining there for a day-long stand-off with police until the final hold-out was plucked from the roof by a cherry-picker ten hours later.

Occupy DC attorney Jeff Light, who is representing the 14 defendants charged with low-level criminal offenses, filed a motion to dismiss on March 26 and a motion to concede on May 22. The prosecution’s deadline to respond to the motion to dismiss was April 9, which it missed. After the judge inquired twice, they indicated their intention to file in two weeks, a response which Judge Wingo described as “woefully inadequate.” She then issued an order requiring the government to file a motion by May 18, but, she noted, they didn’t even file a motion to “late file.”

As of Tuesday’s hearing, the prosecution still had not complied with the judge’s order, only two weeks before the trial scheduled for June 13. Judge Wingo said it was “the first time she had considered treating a motion as conceded.”

Without raising her voice but in an indignant tone, she proceeded to dress down the prosecution. “Was [Assistant Attorney General] Mr. Farrelly on bedrest for six weeks? What’s the explanation here?” she asked. She also reminded them, “This is not a run-of-the-mill case, [and] it’s going to take extreme organization.” In the most telling moment of exasperation, she said, “It appears to me that the government’s conduct here is so…lame.”

In contrast, she praised the defense, calling Jeff Light’s motion “clearly and concisely argued,” “nicely laid out,” and “very nicely written on a complex issue.” In considering sanctions on the prosecution, she consulted Light, asking him if he knew what measures would be appropriate in these cases.

Peter Saba, the prosecuting attorney, lobbied for a continuance as a sanction, but the judge thought that postponing trial would only penalize the defendants. “You’re saying, ‘our bad,'” she said to him. As he took the tongue-lashing, Saba sometimes revealed a lack of preparation for the proceedings, unaware of the contents of the motions and unwilling to commit to deadlines. He texted his office as the judge spoke to see if they could meet the Wednesday deadline she imposed. “Let me be clear,” she said. “It needs to be filed tomorrow at the latest.”

Still, she voiced her reluctance to concede the case on Constitutional grounds and declined to dismiss the case.

Jubilant defendants greeted counsel Jeff Light outside the courtroom with twinkle fingers, an Occupy signal of approval. Kelly Mears said, “I hope to see more of this… One side of this case cares more about this. This is not just a rote defense, but it is a rote prosecution.”

Caty McClure said she was “glad the judge is calling them out. It’s respect for the process.” But at the same time she said she felt “super disrespected” by the prosecution. Sophie Vick agreed. “My time was wasted,” she said. “I wanted to throw up my hands and storm out.”

Jeff Light however had a positive reaction. “Ignoring deadlines isn’t unusual,” he said. “I deal with this situation all the time. Government entities often don’t follow the rules.” And, he added, “Some judges are more tolerant than others. Judge Wingo took the appropriate tone.”

The prosecution is required to file a response to the motion to dismiss by May 30 and a response to the Bill of Particulars by June 5. It also must turn over additional information to the defense by June 1. The trial is scheduled for June 13-14 at DC Superior Court.

(Photo by cool revolution.net)

UPDATE: All the defendants are charged with “Failure to Obey – Emergency.” One defendant, David Givens, has two additional charges: “lewd, indecent or obscene acts” and disorderly conduct.

UPDATE 5/30/12: Ted Gest, Public Information Officer of the DC Attorney General’s Office, says that Assistant Attorney General Sean Farrelly has filed a response to the motion to dismiss in the case, meeting today’s deadline.

People’s Library at McPherson no more

The People’s Library at McPherson Park has been disassembled, all books packed up in crates and taken to the new Occupy DC Resource Center. The library staff made the decision to shut it down.

DC Mic Check zeroes in on the importance of the library in a February 18 article:

The DC People’s Library began in the first days of Occupy DC as little more than a handful of radical pamphlets on the back of a bike trailer. A couple of occupiers were  stationed on a bench with a sign reading, “ask an anarchist,” a precursor to the radical reference service now available in-person and online through the library. Within the first two weeks, a small shelf of donated books had appeared.

By the time Occupy DC was raided, the once-tiny library had become one of the camp’s most vibrant and well-established service tents. It had amassed nearly 2000 donated books – from contemporary politics and history to classics, comics, and a kid’s section – as well as numerous periodicals, pamphlets, and activist-oriented resources like the “safer spaces” binder.

Lately the library at McPherson has been plagued by rats and mold.

During the raid on Occupy DC by National Park Police on February 4, protestors linked arms, determined to defend the library at all costs, viewing it as the heart of the encampment.

With the dismantling of the library and the recent removal of Occupy DC’s information tent, only two tents remain at McPherson Park to make up the “24-hour vigil” presence.

A video tour of the library here.

And a photo of the library in happier days.

(Photos by coolrevolution.net)

Cool Quote of the Day

General Assembly speakers, Occupy Toronto (Photo by ruffin_ready)

Living without permission…that’s the most difficult part, of course. But we’re not talking about just another social system here, we’re talking about a total transformation of human relations–for it will take nothing less to solve the problems our species faces today. Let’s not kid ourselves–until we can achieve this, the violence and strife inherent in conflict-based relations will continue to intensify, and no law or system will be able to protect us. In consensus-based structures, there are no fake solutions, no ways to suppress conflict without resolving it; those who participate in them must learn to coexist without coercion and submission.

The first precious grains of this new world can be found in your friendships and love affairs whenever they are free from power dynamics, whenever cooperation occurs naturally. Imagine those moments expanded to the scale of out entire society–that’s the life that waits beyond democracy.

It may feel like we are separated from that world from by an uncrossable chasm, but the wonderful thing about consensus and autonomy is that you don’t have to wait for the government to vote for them–you can practice them right now with the people around you.

CrimethInc., The Party’s Over: Beyond Politics, Beyond Democracy

Images of Chicago #NoNATO

Toronto Star: Getty freelance photographer Joshua Lott arrested during Chicago NATO protests (photo by Getty/Spencer Platt)

Some of the most striking moments and photos of the last day, continuously updated.

Cool Quote of the Day: Moving into stillness

Imagine a spinning top. Stillness is like a perfectly spinning top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. It appears this way not because it isn’t moving, but because it’s spinning at full speed.

Stillness is not the absence of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in–when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.

For most of us, however, most of the time, our lives do not resemble a perfectly centered top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. Our lives are more like a top in a somewhat wild, erratic, and chaotic spin. We know we’re alive because at least we’re still spinning, but we are not quite perfectly centered, and we are not spinning anywhere near full speed. We don’t have as much energy as we’d like, we are not experiencing as much aliveness as we might, not are we experiencing the peace of stillness or the joy of being.

-Erich Schiffmann, Yoga, the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

D.C. protestors target world’s wealthiest man

(This article originally appeared on dcmiccheck.org)

Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim is estimated to be the wealthiest man in the world, and George Washington University plans to honor him this weekend at its 2012 Commencement ceremony. On May 11, Occupy DC joined a coalition of Latino community leaders across from Rice Hall at George Washington University, to protest Slim’s questionable business practices. Meanwhile, a representative of Two Countries One Voice met with University President Steven Knapp, hoping to persuade GWU to sever ties with Slim, the man they say is halting the economic progress of Mexico and exploiting the poor through his telecommunications monopoly.

“How can a country that has 60 million poor have the richest man in the world?” said Arnoldo Borja, a member of Two Countries One Voice. Slim’s company, America Movil, controls 80% of the Mexican telecom market and has made a reported $69 billion fortune for the tycoon, whose personal wealth surpasses that of Americans Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. According to an Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, America Movil’s subsidiaries Telemex and Telcel “price-gouge” customers but provide unreliable, sub-standard telephone and Internet service, ultimately costing the Mexican economy $129 billion.

Borja attributes Slim’s windfall to government corruption. “Mexico’s ex-president sold a nationalized company to Carlos Slim, so the prices go up because it’s a monopoly, not competition,” he said. “Direct complicity between him and the government [but] there’s no way to take him to court!”

In 2011, Mexico’s antitrust agency, the Federal Competition Commission (CFC) slapped an $864,000 fine on Telcel for monopolistic practices. They revoked the fine in early May following an agreement by America Movil to cut their rates by more than half, and to meet other conditions.

Latino groups strongly object to America Movil’s high prices and poor service because they disproportionately affect poor and rural communities, stifling their socio-economic development. According to a 2011 report from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, 52 million Mexicans live in poverty, and 11.7 million live in extreme poverty.

In spite of Carlos Slim’s extreme wealth and the exploitative practices of his company, GWU awarded him the President’s Medal in 2009 for his “contributions to business and community development in Mexico and Latin America and his extensive philanthropic work.” They plan to confer an honorary degree on him at this year’s May 20 Commencement ceremonies.

Sam Nelson of the Progressive Student Union thinks that GWU should revoke the 2009 award and withdraw the invitation to the Commencement. “I’m horrified that GW acknowledges what Carlos Slim does and still honors him,” he said.

“We feel that GW hasn’t thoroughly looked at some of the vicious things Carlos Slim has done to the people of Mexico,” added David Abrams of Two Countries One Voice. Abrams reported that, following last Friday’s meeting with President Knapp, the University informed them on Monday that they were not breaking ties with Slim and would go ahead with the honorary degree. Abrams believes that GWU had “no idea that Latino groups would feel so passionately” about the decision to honor Slim, and now that they do know, are simply unwilling to backtrack.

Two Countries One Voice is now “escalating” its protest. According to Abrams, organizers expect up to 1,000 people at Sunday’s rally at GWU’s Commencement at the Washington Monument.

(Photo by coolrevolution.net)