|By Sam Inglot|
City drops 19 counts of trespassing against Occupy Lansing protestors
Wednesday, Aug. 1 — To avoid the costs and time of going to trial, the city of Lansing has dropped charges against Occupy Lansing protestors who refused to leave Reutter Park after curfew.
Since May, Raphael Adley and Linda Zarebski, both members of Occupy Lansing, racked up 19 tickets between the two of them for trespassing in the park after 10 p.m. The tickets carry up to a $500 fine and up to 90 jails in day per ticket.
The group has said their overnight “occupation” of Reutter Park was within their First Amendment rights. They’ve said their presence in the park 24/7 was necessary to effectively communicate with the public.
After refusing a deal with the City Attorney’s Office this morning at a pretrial in 54A District Court, all of the charges were dropped, said the protesters’ attorney, Steven Howard.
Assistant City Attorney Mike Leonard offered Adley and Zarebski a deal to pay a $100 fine each, Howard said. Judge Louise Alderson presided over the case.
“This is what happens when people stand up for their rights,” Howard said. “I was prepared to fight this thing tooth and claw. I was prepared to do 19 separate trials.”
The protestors originally requested a trial by jury. Because the two were ticketed at the same time, they were both tried at the same time. Howard believes the charges were dropped because it would’ve been “politically embarrassing” for the city to prosecute the activists for all 19 tickets. The city says it saved time and money by not going to trial.
“We dismissed the charges to avoid the further time and expense the City would have incurred if we took the case to trial,” City Attorney Brig Smith said in an email. “The defendants have vacated Reutter Park and ceased violating the City ordinance, which was our goal in bringing the charges. We are satisfied with the resolution of the case.”
Occupy Lansing suspended their occupation of Reutter Park on July 4th. They continue to organize events and hold General Assembly meeting every Saturday at 1 p.m. in the park.
“My clients were prepared to martyr themselves if necessary by going to jail,” Howard said.