Stop-and-Frisk Protesters NOT Guilty in Queens


NOT Guilty in Queens. Stop-and-frisk defendants, attorneys and jurors

NOT Guilty in Queens. Stop-and-frisk defendants, attorneys and jurors

Another Queens jury didn’t accept the District Attorney’s argument that protesters committed any crime back in November of 2011 when we marched on the 103rd NYPD Precinct, second in Queens in stop-and-frisks.  To two counts of Obstructing Government Administration, they said, NOT guilty.  But they could not get past the idea that the police ordered people to move — even if it was not a lawful order — and convicted Greg, Noche, Ribka and Matt of disorderly conduct, a violation.  They will be sentenced on July 18.

Any time the prosecutors slink out of a courtroom, it’s cause for celebration, and we are glad there were no criminals convictions. Attorney Marty Stolar, part of the legal team who defended the freedom figthers, said tonight, “I am satisfied with the verdict but also disappointed. I wanted the whole thing.”  There was no lawful order for protesters to be dispersed, and they should not have been convicted.

A most interesting scene developed outside the criminal courts building afterward.  Although one alternate juror declined to speak to us, and another juror said “no comment” as to her thoughts on stop-and-frisk after two weeks of hearing about it, 4 jurors and one alternate hung out for quite awhile with defendants, attorneys, and supporters.  There were hand-shakes and hugs.  They said, as jurors in the last case said, that they were most concerned that our defendants not get any jail time.  “You all are great people!”  They wanted to finally meet the defendants, and attorneys, and learn more background.

Discussing stop-and-frisk outside Queens Criminal Court.  Attorney Steve Silverblatt; defendant Ribka Getachew, and attorney Mani Taferi speaking with juror.

Discussing stop-and-frisk outside Queens Criminal Court. Attorney Steve Silverblatt; defendant Ribka Getachew, and attorney Mani Taferi speaking with juror.

An older African American man was most outspoken and warmly hugged defendants.  We asked if his opinion of stop-and-frisk had changed, and he said yes.  “I still think it could do some good.  But it’s so unfair how only certain groups of people are stopped.”  Another juror said the defendants, and our attorneys, were “really interesting, honest people, but we didn’t like the police or the District Attorney’s attitude.”  She said the contempt for the defendants showed by the D.A’s alienated the jury, a fact they talked about in deliberations.

The jurors asked to know more about our movement, and got flyers about the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.  All said that the experience of the trial had given them a lot to think about in terms of how the courts and police work.  A very basic question they asked: why did they system spend two weeks trying people for something that was completely non-violent and lawful, when there are real crimes being committed?

There are still five defendants to be tried on these same charges: Elaine Brower, Calvin Barnwell, John Hector, Richie Marini, to be tried Tuesday July 8, and Christina Gonzalez, whose case has been severed and is not yet scheduled for trial.  We have no expectation that the DA will drop the OGA charges.

Mani Taferi, Greg Allen, Marty Stolar, Steve Silverblatt and jurors

Mani Taferi, Greg Allen, Marty Stolar, Steve Silverblatt and jurors

There is MUCH more to learn from the scene in Queens.  The controversy over stop-and-frisk in the city, particularly the Floyd v City of New York lawsuit in federal court, and the way in which the NYPD’s policy has become an issue in the mayoral race — because it’s now more widely seen as a big problem — affected this trial.  More importantly, it shows how potentially widespread opposition to it could be, and what a responsibility we have to carry forward resistance to this practice, and to mass incarceration, so that even more people see that there is no good reason for the authorities to get away with locking up so many people.

  1. #1 by Hal on June 4, 2013 - 6:48 pm

    When heroes of intense courage like Bradley Manning are promised whistle-blower protection by Obama, then end up tortured for a year and in Leavenworth Prison, it’s small wonder that regular Americans are now afraid to say too much opinion on any public media, for fear of government reprisals.

    See the Fortune Society (www.fortunesociety.org) for how their awesome organization helps keep prisons less congested…

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