Occupy Atlanta Claims City Deceived Court, Spied on Protesters
By MATTHEW CHARLES CARDINALE
Alanta Progressive News, December 21, 2012
Alanta Progressive News, December 21, 2012
(APN) ATLANTA — At a press conference at City Hall today, Friday, December 21, 2012, activists with Occupy Atlanta alleged that the City of Atlanta deceived them and the Atlanta Municipal Court with respect to eight hundred pages of documents that the activists say they subpoenaed months ago.
In addition, recent court proceedings have revealed a significant spying operation by the City of Atlanta in connection with other agencies including the federal Department of Homeland Security, on Occupy Atlanta.
All week long, over eighty Occupy Atlanta activists have been on trial, including 53 who were arrested during a massive arrest at Woodruff Park that occurred October 25 and 26, 2011. Most of those were charged with being in the park between 11pm and 6am, a petty misdemeanor.
Other activists faced charges stemming from additional arrests that occurred on November 01, 2011, involving a protest that spilled out into the street; and from a later protest at a Chase Bank branch. The latter arrestees are known as the Chase 8.
Some of the activists also faced charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of traffic.
Throughout the week, about twenty activists accepted a plea bargain in which they agreed to suspended sentence agreements, some which included a fine and/or hours of community service; however, if the activists do not get into legal trouble for a year they will not have to pay the fine or perform the hours of service.
The City of Atlanta arrested the activists late last year in a massive show of force that is estimated to have cost the City over one million dollars, including helicopters; dozens of officers on foot, horse, and motorcycle; and some apparent police brutality.
The City took issue with the fact that activists were camping in the park after hours. The Mayor had at first issued an executive order saying the protesters could stay, but then lifted the executive order, citing alleged public safety concerns.
Occupy Atlanta, one of hundreds of chapters of Occupy Together nationwide, had been protesting to bring awareness to what they refer to as the 99 percent, the vast majority of US residents who are suffering and who they say are being taken advantage of by a neoliberal capitalist system that has perverted our system of democratic governance.
The trial is before Chief Judge Crystal Gaines, who also heard the controversial Eagle Raid trial involving allegations that men were dancing at a bar in their underwear for tips.
Among those arrested with Occupy Atlanta include such progressive champions as State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), former Atlanta City Councilman Derrick Boazman (District 12), and veteran activist Joe Beasley.
Meanwhile, the charges against over thirty activists were dropped, seeing as how Atlanta Police Department (APD) officers could not identify many of the specific activists whom they arrested by name in court, when asked.
Currently, eight activists are still facing charges, including Beasley, Boazman, activist Tim Franzen, and Fort, as well as four activists–including Amy Barnes, Kimlee Davis, Diana Eidon, and a fourth person–who were removed from the main case into a separate trial process to accommodate their unique needs.
Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis held up a stack of 800 pages of documents on the steps of City Hall that he said “the City failed to turn over in subpoenas upon request.”
Attorney Alex Susor said they had subpoenaed the City of Atlanta earlier this summer for the production of certain records. “We litigated these issues very early on in the case.”
“We served subpoenas on George Turner and Kasim Reed’s office. The City Attorney’s office sent a motion to quash. After we began the trial, an officer testified the documents existed under oath,” Susor said.
“They said they did not exist and they were too voluminous and there was no way to separate them out,” Susor said.
“That being said, we found out in the middle of the trial the activists were being infiltrated. They denied that,” Susor said.
“Fire inspectors went out to the park. No violations were found. It is grotesquely unfair to keep that a secret,” Susor said.
Fort referred to the City’s actions as an “ongoing and pernicious cover-up.”
“It says something about the conduct of this Mayor. He instructs the City Attorney. When you hide and suppress evidence, you are guilty as sin,” Boazman said.
“Mayor Kasim Reed in his reasoning, stating this is going to be a safety hazard, and denying, documents they claimed did not exist [showing]… at Occupy Atlanta, they made the announcement for anyone with drugs or weapons… to leave immediately,” attorney Scott Dawkins said.
With the addition of the newly released documents, the record “shows no public safety hazard that the Mayor needed to rescind the Executive Order,” Fort said.
“We are in the position now of asking the City of Atlanta and Mayor Reed to stop the cover-up. What do you have to hide?” Fort asked.
“I don’t trust [Senior Assistant City Attorney] Amber Robinson. I’m concerned there are more documents,” Fort said.
Susor said that some of the newly revealed documents are now admitted in court and before Judge Gaines for her consideration. He added that should the Defendants be found guilty, the documents, and the City’s withholding of the documents, can be considered on appeal.
Davis said they would also be considering pursuing sanctions against the City of Atlanta for withholding the documents.
Davis said that Occupy Atlanta had learned the Department of Homeland Security of the US was involved and helping coordinate the efforts between various agencies to spy upon and infiltrate the Occupy Atlanta movement.
“It’s shocking to find out our movement had been infiltrated at every level,” Franzen said.
Informants attended every General Assembly, the regular meetings of Occupy Atlanta, and gave daily, sometimes hourly reports back to an apparent consortium of agencies at the local and federal levels.
The legal defense team plans to make its closing arguments in January 2013.