Report from the second-to-last arrestee from the Portland protests at the beginning of the Iraq invasion to go to trial.
Today I was scheduled at 1 pm to appear in Multnomah County Court to be tried for charges stemming from protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq on Friday, March 21, 2003. My volunteer lawyer, my friend and witness who was arrested with me on the 21st, and I spent many hours preparing my defense. The case was swiftly dismissed this afternoon for lack of evidence against me: the police officer called to testify against me was a no-show.
A brief history of my charges: I was arrested twice, on March 20th & March 21st, while nonviolently marching to protest the U.S. aggression. Each time I was imprisoned for a few hours before being cited and released; on the 21st I also got blasted in the face with pepperspray before getting arrested. In the end, I received six charges: 2 each of failure to obey the order of a police officer, interfering with the actions of a police officer, and obstructing traffic. I met with dozens of other arrestees the following week for legal counsel. Many of these defendents chose to plea-bargain in community court; they entered a guilty plea in exchange for the sentence of street sweeping for the Portland Downtown Biz Alliance (8 hours per charge) and writing an essay about how they had broken the law and would avoid doing so in the future.
Over the eighteen months since my arrests, a couple of interesting things happened: the state declined to proceed with most of the remaining charges for "interfering with the actions of a peace officer" in the context of nonviolent protest, and the Oregon Supreme Court found that charges of "failure to obey" the order of a police officer in the context of nonviolent protest were actually unconstitutional. For reasons unknown to me the district attorney decided not to proceed with any of the charges against me from the first night I was arrested. (I would guess it's because the police could not prove I was doing anything illegal at the time.)
Last week my attorney heard rumblings that the state might just drop the case altogether; over the past couple of days, however, the district attorney made clear that he did want to proceed with the case. I'm not sure why; as my lawyer explained to me, the only evidence the state could use to prosecute me failed to show that I was guilty of any crime. (If I had to guess, I'd say that the district attorney might have been miffed that I didn't take them up on their subsequent offers to cop a plea—but who knows?)
Bottom line to nonviolent civil disobedience participants: hang in there if you can, don't bargain out. The state, the judges and even the cops don't seem all that interested in following thru after the initial smackdowns, pepperspray and zip cuffs. Good luck to the one peaceful protester cas estill remaining on September 21st, 2004.
P.S. I am a little miffed about not getting to present my prepared statement for the record in court; I'lll be posting that later this weekend.