Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild
For Immediate Release: December 21, 2011
Judge Consolidates 90 Occupy Chicago Cases for Hearing on Motion to Dismiss
National Lawyers Guild attorneys defend activists, seek dismissal of park curfew charges
Chicago, IL — Municipal Court Judge E. Kenneth Wright, Jr. consolidated 90 cases today in a hearing stemming from the arrest of more than 300 Occupy Chicago activists in October who were charged with violating a city-imposed curfew at Grant Park. The dozens of activists affected by the ruling today are fighting their charges and, with the help of National Lawyers Guild attorneys, have filed motions to dismiss their cases based on a violation of their First Amendment rights. The city has until January 20th to reply to the dismissal motions and a hearing is scheduled for February 15th at 1:30pm before Judge Wright.
“It’s an outrage that the city is spending precious tax-payer dollars to prosecute frivolous cases, while being unwilling to give an inch to accommodate the free speech rights of Occupy Chicago activists,” said Sarah Gelsomino, with the People’s Law Office in Chicago and one of the attorneys who filed motions to dismiss on behalf of Occupy Chicago defendants. “This intolerance of political protest in Chicago is casting serious doubts about the city’s respect for and ability to uphold the rights of dissidents in advance of the NATO/G8 demonstrations,” continued Gelsomino. “The needless arrest and prosecution of hundreds of Occupy Chicago activists sets a distressing precedent as thousands of people are expected to protest here in May.”
Approximately 175 people were arrested on quasi-criminal charges in the early morning hours of October 15th as activists remained protesting in the park after 11pm. A week later, on October 22nd, another 130 people were similarly arrested. Out of a total of more than 300 arrests, the vast majority of Occupy Chicago activists have had their first court appearances. So far, at least 90 people have filed motions to dismiss based on a violation of their First Amendment rights, more than 40 people say they will seek a jury trial if necessary, and over 140 people have accepted the city’s offer to dismiss the charges in exchange for 10 hours of community service.
The Guild is also supporting the Occupy movement in dozens of other cities around the country through its Legal Observer™ program and by defending hundreds of people who have been arrested. The Guild has also mounted successful civil actions in several cities to protect the rights of Occupy activists.
The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.
Sample NLG motion to dismiss: http://nlgchicago.org/wp-content/uploads/NLG-Motion-to-Dismiss.pdf