The Chase 5 began their trial today, with a courtroom packed full of Occupy supporters! Before getting to the heart of the case, each side had to clear up some procedural matters: specific arguments had to be allowed by the judge and six jurors needed to be selected from a pool of thirty-six prospective jurors. To begin with, the judge decided to disallow the necessity defense. It remains to be seen what sort of defense will be allowed in the trial.
The main portion of the day was spent selecting a jury. This created some interesting discussion within the courtroom about a variety of topics: the role of the jury, the authority of the police to determine lawful behavior, what is considered lawful, are laws ever wrong? Do police ever make mistakes? Even in the preliminary jury selection process, the defense successfully initiated a dialogue about the potential for a jury to serve as a check not only on the “mistakes” and excesses of police and other government officials, but even potentially on laws themselves. Defendants and supporters alike found the jury selection process particularly illuminating.
It’s important to point out that, despite pretenses to the contrary, certain qualifications prevent a jury from being representative of any jurisdiction’s residents: a potential juror must be a) 18+, b) a U.S. citizen, c) a resident of the given county for at least a year with a stable permanent address, d) conversant in English, and e) a non-felon. In other words, some of Seattle’s most oppressed people — youth, immigrants, (debt-ridden) students, houseless folks and people with instable or transient housing (including young adults), and felons — get left out altogether from any “jury of one’s peers.” Yet despite the fact that any jury pool misses some of the people most likely to identify with the politics of Occupy, the thirty-six people gathered in that room with numbered placards were collectively far more in tune with Occupy’s criticism of business as usual than, say, any sample of Slog, P-I, or CHS Blog commenters.
The 36 potential jurors included numerous critics of police in general and the SPD in particular, several WTO veterans, anti-Vietnam War activists, an anti-apartheid activist, an immigrant rights activist who has supported migrants in the desert and dealt with “unsympathetic” border patrol, three or four unemployed people, self-employed folks, minimum-wage workers, social workers, a crowd of Chase-haters, a handful of people who’ve moved their money out of big banks, a middle-aged vegan, someone who argued forcefully (and accurately) that jurors have the discretion to do “what’s right” beyond the instruction of the court, a pro-union Occupier, and someone once convicted of trespassing. To top it all off, allor nearly all of these 36 people had been pulled over by a cop at some time in their lives. Seattleites, if you want an idea of what you look like and what potential you have for radical change, you’d do well to stop by a courtroom any day of the week for jury selection.
Much earlier in the morning, many hours before court was to begin, a small group of supporters apparently made a visit to the courthouse. These individuals decided to make some beautiful artwork in support of the Chase 5. However, very soon after they began working on it the security guards arrived. One of the handful of security guards who stopped by as these individuals were working on the artwork informed them that not only did he like it, but that he disliked Chase and had removed his money and closed his accounts with them approximately ten years ago! Eventually the police arrived, with five officers, and stood around for a while discussing whether there was anything they could do. They decided that there was nothing they could arrest anyone for, as the materials being used were water soluble. Eventually the artworks was finished, and the artists and police both left. Unfortunately, around 5:30 in the morning someone came and pressure washed the artwork off the sidewalk – making it so that no one entering the courthouse later in the day was able to enjoy it. Luckily pictures were taken and hi-resolution copies brought to the courthouse so that the Chase 5 and supporters could enjoy them in the hall outside of the court room.
Part of the artwork that was put on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. It states "Chase: The Real Criminals"
During the lunch break there was a press conference and speak-out held outside, including KOMO, Seattle P-I, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, and Q13, as well as local Occupier media, including livestream. Following the speak-out, there was a march to a Chase Bank location downtown. Within 5 seconds of arriving outside that location, the doors were locked, and a police officer was stationed in front of them. While customers attempted to enter the bank, the police officer informed them of a second entrance. (How sweet!) The protesters then proceeded to take his instructions and enter through those doors. The protesters then stationed themselves near the entrance with signs. They passed out fliers with information about Chase bank. Security guards attempted to kick people out. It didn’t work. No arrests were made.
Following this action, 10 of the people from the march headed back to the courthouse to continue to support those on trial. Every Chase branch that they passed locked their doors as the protesters got closer. However they were able to stop at one of the branches on their way back, barge through the doors, and do a mic check inside the bank. The mic check consisted of a letter that was written to the bank employees inviting them to celebrate Jamie Dimon’s birthday, and all of the wonderful things he has done — like the millions of dollars of “debt relief to people who really need it” in the form of foreclosures. To celebrate, Occupiers suggested the employees take the day off and join the protesters in the streets. These people really get shit done. Even during lunch.
There will be updates about more Chase bank actions that took place in other parts of Seattle today as we receive the information.
Jury selection finished after the lunch break, leaving time for one witness to take the stand before the day was over. It was the bank branch manager that was present the day the five occupiers chained themselves inside. He was really boring.
Cameron and Shanti’s trials were also both continued today. Updates to follow!