Chase 5 Trial, Day Two: SPD Works for Chase

15 Mar

This is a report back from Wednesday’s proceedings.  This was put together after a long day in court and will be updated to add more details from Chase 5’s testimony.  Today (Thursday), the Jury will be sent into deliberations.

Today the Chase 5’s trial continued. Both the prosecution and defense presented their witnesses and the Chase 5 took the stand. At least another day of trial lies ahead, where both sides will present closing arguments, followed by jury deliberation, and finally a verdict.

Braden Pence, one of two defense attorneys for the Chase 5, examines evidence during a recess on Wednesday. Behind him lie PVC pipe used by the Chase5 on November 2nd.

Suspense is building, and the outcome remains uncertain.

The morning began with a debate over whether the instruction could be allowed for the jury to decide if Chase Bank is a semi-public space because of the incredible public funding that it received through the bailouts of 2008 and collusion with the government. Like the necessity instruction (the ability for the jurors to discuss and rule on whether it was necessary for the defendants to break the law), the day before, this was also shot down by the Judge McKenna. This makes for an increasingly narrow permissible defense.  However, the statement read inside the bank was taken as evidence on November 2nd, and the jury will be allowed to examine it, along with the PVC pipes and chains, during deliberations.

A couple dozen occupiers sat in the courtroom in support as the prosecution brought forward the manager of the Chase Bank branch that the Chase 5 occupied on November 2nd of last year. He continued his testimony from the day before, as to the events of the day.  However, the events  themselves were not in dispute by the defense.  Surveillance video from the Chase branch was shown to the jurors, revealing a well organized Chase 5 locking down inside the bank, forcing SPD to cut them out of the lock boxes later that afternoon.  An SPD Lieutenant testified that he was on foot when a march left Seattle Central Community College and received no cooperation from the marchers in his attempts to determine their final destination.  The march left SCCC right as the Chase 5 began occupying the Bank.  Its arrival forced the total shutdown of the bank.

Photo Credit: Franz Ais.

The most interesting testimony was that of a police witness who was first on the scene when the Chase 5 locked down inside the bank. What to many was a revelation, came to light: He had been working as a uniformed police officer under the pay of Chase, to the tune of $44 an hour. The uniformed police enforcer of Chase’s security was charged for the day with patrolling between five Chase locations in the downtown area of Seattle because of planned protests.

This fact is worth repeating: A uniformed SPD officer, patrolling public property between Chase banks, under the pay of Chase. While the other two police officers testified, more or less without incident, telling the stories of the various roles that they played in the arrests, the first’s testimony signaled to many in the court room as to how deeply embedded corporations and finance are with the government.

After hearing from prosecuting witnesses, the defense began calling the Chase 5 to testify one by one.

The defense attorneys took turns asking each of the five to give personal background information and how they came to be involved in Occupy Seattle.  Most of the Chase 5 met and became friends through Occupy Seattle’s General Assemblies. Some testified that their direct action on November 2nd was motivated by  frustration with sign-waving and marches that have not had real impact on the institutions like Banks, which lie at the root of peoples’ pain and suffering.

Despite the Judge’s ruling to disallow the defense to make political arguments about Chase Bank, he did allow minimum testimony from the 5 as to their “state of mind” leading up to November 2nd.  Despite frequent objections from the prosecutor, when asked by the defense attorneys why they each decided to take the action they did, they were able to (briefly) raise broader political questions about Chase Bank.

Each of the Chase 5 testified separately about the unprecedented collusion between banks and government; the destructive role that banks play in society, the foreclosure crisis and Chase profiting from food stamps; the blurred line between public and private space when the government funds banks who in turn control local governments through finance; the need to put one’s body on the line, regardless of the risks, to confront the banks; witnessing SPD attack and beat occupy protestors; and that it is necessary and just to disrupt the normalcy and challenge the system and its forced immiseration of the people.

Each of the defendants were asked by the defense if they thought they had the legal right to take the actions they did.  In light of their testimony described above, each of the 5 answered ‘yes’.

Besides frequent objections to Chase 5’s testimony, there was little cross-examination by the prosecution. The 6 jurors listened intently to the Chase 5’s testimony.

Wednesday brought home in a very tangible way, how the police act as the “private army” of the 1% in the words of New York’s Mayor Bloomberg.  The day in court also revealed the way in which banks are treated on a higher level than ordinary people.  That they have an entire police and legal system at their disposal, to harass, arrest, and prosecute those with the temerity to question its legitimacy and to rebel against it.

For disrupting a bank, the Chase 5 and hundreds of marchers temporarily brought to a grinding halt the mundane yet horrifying machinery of capital.  Yet they are on trial as petty criminals.

The Jury will have an opportunity to consider the 5’s testimony. Will a brave juror themself call into question the basis on which they will be directed to rule in the case?

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