Sleepful Protest charges dismissed when prosecution fails to present case

Sleepful Protest defendants Rudy Roberts and Harris Nicholas

Judge Elizabeth Wingo dismissed the case brought against two activists who participated in ongoing Occupy DC demonstrations in front of several Bank of America branches. At the outset of the trial, government counsel told the judge that they were not ready to proceed with the case. The judge then dismissed the charges against Rudy Roberts and Harris Nicholas, who were arrested for blocking passage and failure to obey.

Roberts and Nicholas had been active participants in the Sleepful Protest, overnight occupations at Bank of America branches intended to draw attention to the bank’s foreclosure practices and taking taxpayer bailout money. Police arrested many protestors for blocking sidewalks during the first weeks of the Sleepful Protest in April.

Attorney Jeff Light advises Rudy Roberts, Harris Nicholas and Georgia Pearce on their rights at the Sleepful Protest

UPDATE: So why did the prosecution drop the ball in the Sleepful Protest case? It made “representations” to the judge that it was not ready for trial, but it seems unlikely that lack of preparedness would be the reason that it would let a case slide–especially an Occupy DC case.

The District has been consistently pursuing even trivial charges against protestors affiliated with Occupy DC, and sometimes expends great effort to do so. For example, even though the Assistant AG’s office was abysmally late in filing motions for the OccuBarn trial, to the point that Judge Wingo called it a “gross dereliction of duty,” it got its act together in a hurry when she demanded that a motion be turned in overnight. And Assistant AG Sean Farrelly was well-prepared for trial, parrying each motion and challenge brought by defense counsel Light. And after all this effort, the case was in fact successfully prosecuted; the defendants were found guilty. Trials related to Occupy DC tend to be more high profile than most. That could be one reason the AG’s office pursues these to the bitter end.

Defense counsel Jeff Light said that in the Sleepful Protest case the government had failed to even give him video evidence owed to them. He also said that Peter Saba from DC Attorney General’s Office sent him an email the previous day that the government wasn’t proceeding with the case.

Maybe the AG’s office knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on. That it could be shown, as the defense alleged in its motion, that the police arrested the defendants in retaliation for First Amendment activity and their constitutional rights were violated. That it could be demonstrated that the offenses the defendants were accused of were not in violation of the blocking passage statute as the Metropolitan Police itself defined it when they testified at a City Council meeting last February.

Failure to prepare is not quite the same as dropping charges, so we’re left to ask why. If defendants choose to pursue a civil lawsuit in the coming weeks, maybe the reasons will become more clear.

It lives!

Bear keeps vigil on Vermont Ave.

The District’s Sleepful Protest is roaming these days–from the original site at the Bank of America branch on Vermont Ave. to branches on Pennsylvania Ave. and 18th and K. It’s also targeted Cargill–an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products–on 15th St.

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DC Sleepful Protest relocates

The new Sleepful Protest on 11th and Pennsylvania
A vendor set up shop in front of the Bank of America on Vermont Ave.

Occupy DC’s Sleepful Protest relocated to a different Bank of America branch. After persistent arrests for “blocking passage” at the Bank of America on Vermont Ave., they abandoned the storefront after a vendor named Anthony set up shop at the same site. Ironically, he also has political signs and says he has a cause (domestic violence against women). So far police haven’t bothered him.

The new occupied Bank of America branch is on 11th and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the hoax website “Your Bank of America” has BoA CEO Brian Moynihan apologizing for…everything. His faux letter ‘fesses up to climate-destroying coal investments, plummeting stock prices which may require more taxpayer bailouts, and continuing the same practices that nearly caused economic collapse. It directs the reader to a forum where they can submit their comments and suggestions for making Bank of America the “Bank for America.”

Pajama Protest

The new tactic: #sleepfulprotest. Taking it to the banks.


Two members of Occupy D.C. were arrested Thursday morning outside a Bank of America branch not far from McPherson square after the latest overnight protest outside the bank’s doors. The protesters were the sixth and seventh to be arrested this week after taking part in what Occupy is calling a “sleepful protest”—slumbering overnight outside the door of a bank branch.

The Nation says it’s bringing Occupy and OWS back to its roots:

The concept of sleepful protests combines Occupy’s two most powerful elements: physical occupations and the targeting of Wall Street, thereby alleviating one of the major criticisms of OWS, which was that the occupations of parks and squares is too far removed from the movement’s actual targets.

When people see Occupiers sleeping outside a bank, the natural question for them to ask is “Why this bank?” And that allows the protesters to segue into an explanation of what Occupy is and what they stand for. In fact, that exact interaction happened with an Occupier and Colin Moynihan:

“Why Citibank?” said Rich Carollan, 23, who was reclining near Broadway. “Because they received a large portion of the bailout funds.”

And we’re still debating–or some Metropolitan Police are confused about–the meaning of “blocking passage.” DC protestors were arrested early Tuesday for sitting against the Bank of America building holding signs. They are contesting the charges.

Why Bank of America? Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone will tell you why:

It’s been four years since the government, in the name of preventing a depression, saved this megabank from ruin by pumping $45 billion of taxpayer money into its arm. Since then, the Obama administration has looked the other way as the bank committed an astonishing variety of crimes – some elaborate and brilliant in their conception, some so crude that they’d be beneath your average street thug. Bank of America has systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors, homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, “robo-signed” evidence – a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer. It hawked worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds, draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn’t ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages.

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