Occupy Wall Street protesters convicted of trespassing

June 19, 2012 6:02:47 AM PDT
Eight protesters with Occupy Wall Street were convicted Monday of misdemeanor trespassing for entering a lot owned by a church a month after their park encampment was dismantled.

A judge in Manhattan Criminal Court found the protesters guilty after a weeklong bench trial. He sentenced seven of them to four days of community service. The eighth defendant also was convicted of two other misdemeanors, attempted criminal mischief and attempted criminal possession of burglar's tools, and was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

The defendants were charged after a Dec. 17 incident in which protesters went over a chain-link fence or crawled under it to get to a lot owned by Trinity Church to use it as a new camp site.

The original camp in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan was shut down in November. Protesters, whose campaign opposed financial inequality, had wanted officials at Trinity to let them occupy the church-owned property but were refused.

Gideon Oliver, lawyer for retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, one of the defendants, said the defense team "was not surprised but disappointed by the verdicts."

"I think that the verdict in this case makes it clear how defensive the courts are prepared to be of private property interests in a way that is very threatening to the real exercise of the First Amendment, which needs breathing room," he said.

Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office, said in a statement, the office "greatly respects the First Amendment right of citizens to protest. This right must be exercised in a way that does not violate the law or infringe upon other citizens' rights."

In its statement, Trinity Church said, "While we are sympathetic to many of the OWS protesters' stated goals, we do not support the seizure of private property."

It added, "We continue to support the basic principles underlying the Occupy movement, and will continue to welcome protesters, as we welcome all others in our community, to our facilities in the Wall Street neighborhood."

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