For Immediate Release: Chase Bank Occupiers: Not Guilty. “A Huge Victory”

15 Mar

We received the following press release from the Chase 5.

Almost all the Chase 5 and many supporters minutes after the verdict was announced.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Chase Bank Occupiers: Not Guilty. “A Huge Victory”

CONTACT:

The defendants Danielle Simmons, Liam Wright, Sarah Svobodny, Hudson Williams-Eynon, Michael Stevens and their lawyers Braden Price and David Hancock, are available for interview.

Contact for the defendants: itsrighttooccupy@gmail.com

Braden Pence (Lawyer) – 206.551.1516, braden@pencefirm.com

David Hancock (Lawyer) – 206.422.0848, david@defenderoftheaccused.org

Thursday, March 15th, five occupiers who shut down a Chase Bank in the city of Seattle on November 2nd of 2011 heard their verdict: Not Guilty. When the unanimous decision by the jury of six was announced today the shock, and elation, of the five occupiers and their supporters swept the room. “This sets a totally new precedent,” said one young woman.

The verdict was read at 4:15 of the third day of trial, having come after days of argument, examination of witnesses and cross examination. The City, having brought the charges, put the manager of the Chase Bank branch on the stand as well as three members of the Seattle Police Department. One had been working as private security for Chase Bank that day while wearing a police uniform.

Danielle Simmons, one of the defendants, after trial said, “I am in shock. The jury decided that our actions were justified and whether this is because they thought it was somehow lawful or just the right thing to do, something is changing, and I think it’s beautiful.”

On the day of November 2nd the five, now innocent occupiers, chained themselves together inside of the Chase bank using what is commonly known as a “lockbox.” When a march of about 200 arrived the branch was finally locked down and customers were informed that they should leave. The branch remained closed for the rest of the day.

This is a huge victory for the Occupy Movement,” added Liam Wright, another defendant. “Every step of the way this bank occupation and the follow up has been more successful than we could have ever hoped for. We wanted to make clear to everyone that we don’t want a world defined by banks, we don’t want to live under them. We want to be human beings living together, free from the dead weight of financial profiteering.”

Liam Wright concluded, “They act like we will live under the rule of banks and money forever. But they can’t stop us. They can’t jail us.”

One of the occupiers, Michael Stevens said, “Right now the American political and corporate establishment is headed for another election. If anything, candidates might disagree about how much they want to limit birth control or how long the military should put off bombing Iran. This is so horrifying it’s ludicrous. Meanwhile, we are determined to end the rule of banks and billionaires — over us and over this whole planet. This doesn’t even appear on the radar of ‘official politics,’ yet millions agree with us.”

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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?

Chase 5 Trial Continues This Morning (Thursday) with Closing Arguments and Jury Deliberations

15 Mar

An update from yesterday will be posted shortly.

Closing arguments will start this morning and the Judge will give jury instructions before he sends them into deliberation.

Chase 5 Trial, Day One: The Battle Begins!

13 Mar

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-ICapitol 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!

Legal Updates From Today

13 Mar

In addition to the Chase 5 (look for a post tonight about today’s proceedings), other occupiers had courtroom appearances scheduled for today.

Please support these folks!

  • Jon Joseph’s court date for his Port Shutdown arrest was continued to April 13.  He also has a court date on April 17th from his arrest the night that Dorli Rainey was attacked by SPD.
  • Henry S. did not have an appearance today.  It was continued to May 8th.
  • Cameron’s trial for his Oct. 5 arrest at Westlake Park was continued (date will be posted).
  • The Union Cultural Center Group has a pre-trial hearing this Thursday, March 16th at 1:30pm.
  • The Chase 5 will be in court tomorrow, and likely through the rest of the week in Courtoom 1103 (Judge McKenna).

On Eve of Dimon’s Birthday, Occupy Atlanta Shuts Down 5 Chase Banks

12 Mar

Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that there have been 14 arrests at actions targeting Chase Bank in advance of tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) National Day of Action.

Occupy Atlanta is asking for donations to their PayPal account for bail.  They report that 8 people are jailed in Dekalb County that

“have been rushed before a judge. This is NOT a good thing. Their bond has been set at $650 cash per person. That’s $5,200 to get 8 of the 14 out of jail (it would have been around $650 to get ALL 8 of them out before). This is an OBVIOUS reaction to the prisoners being political. If you can help in any way, to any amount, please do.”

From Occupy Atlanta

This morning, at 9am, 5 Chase Bank locations were the target of civil disobedience in defense of the Pittman Family that lives at 404 Glen Iris. 6 members of the Occupy community, after dancing on their cars in the drive-thru at the West-End branch, tried to leave the parking lot and were blocked in by APD (yes, they were leaving the area). They have been arrested and we have reason to believe they have been taken to Rice St. (Fulton County Jail). At a separate location, 7 have been arrested and taken to Dekalb County Jail.

At least 3 have been detained at a separate location. They have been released.

Today, March 12th, 2012, we are going after Chase bank branches in the metro Atlanta area. We are Take Back the Block and Occupy Atlanta. This is our third time stopping Chase’s businesses from operating. We want the deed to the Pittman home, located at 404 Glen Iris, and a moratorium on foreclosures.

Today, Atlanta shuts Chase down. Tomorrow, on Jamie Dimon’s birthday, the nation will join us in disrupting their abominable practices.

Our actions are intended for the owners of Chase Bank. They are not intended for the low paid workers of these local branches who make money for Chase. Chase executives–without employee input–throw people out of their homes. We refuse to live in a world where it is acceptable for bosses to make millions of dollars while we are left homeless and poor.

We refuse to comply with the terms of Chase bank, an agent of the system that harms us shamelessly. We do not accept buying back the Pittman home at market value; we do not accept cash for keys. We demand that Chase Bank work with the Pittman Family in a way that doesn’t set them up to fail. We won’t stop until we have the deed.

Tonight, at 7pm, Outside of Fulton County Jail (901 Rice St. Atlanta, Georgia 30318), there will be a noise demo for our comrades locked behind enemy lines. Bring pots, pans, horns, drums, voices, friends and family. In a direct action movement of civil disobedience this could be any of you locked up next time. Let’s make sure they know they aren’t alone!

If possible, donate anything you can to Occupy Atlanta legal to aid in their release. Spring is coming!
https://www.wepay.com/donate/65516

And come out tomorrow!
http://www.facebook.com/events/394060167275375/?ref=ts

Resist the banks!

Struggle against all enemies of the people!

OCCUPY ATLANTA! TAKE BACK THE BLOCK!

Chase 5 Trial Begins Tuesday

12 Mar


Tuesday, March 13th is JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s birthday and the National Day of Action against Chase Bank.  It is also the day that the trial begins for Seattle’s Chase 5.  By showing our support for the Chase 5 and all #occupiers facing charges, we will declare our defiance to the 1% and their institutions.

Tuesday, March 13: @ Seattle Municipal Court

  • 8:30am, pack the courtroom (Judge Mckenna,  Room 1103).  If you can’t be there right at 8:30, come whenever you can. It still counts!
  • 12:30pm, Press Conference (outside the courthouse), followed by speak-out
  • 1pm, March on Chase Bank

The trial will likely continue throughout the rest of the week.  Stay tuned for updates and help to show support in the courtroom when you can this week.

Later on Tuesday, at 4:00pm*, there will be a series of Chase bank actions in different neighborhoods and neighboring cities, including:

  • West Seattle: meet near the junction by the key bank that sits in front of the farmers market
  • Beacon Hill: 7100 Martin Luther King Junior Way South, Seattle, WA 98118. Meet at the Whistle Stop Cafe (northeast corner of MLK and Othello)
  • University Village: 4501 University Way Northeast, Seattle, WA
  • *Wallingford: 1919 North 45th Street, Seattle.  This action starts at 5pm.
  • Olympia, Wa: 825 Capitol Way, Olympia, WA 98501
  • Lacey, Wa: 808 Sleater Kinney Rd Se
  • *Everett, Wa:  2628 Colby Ave (intersection of Colby/Everett Ave). This action starts at 11am

Help spread the word about these actions, locally and nationally: