Update on the ACAC 19 after the settlement hearing on 10/04/2013:
At noon the crowd began to gather at the steps of 850 Bryant St. Signs were made and held up with slogans proclaiming solidarity, demanding that the DA drop charges, and of course some had a few choice words for the police and the justice system. The support the ACAC 19 banner was held up on the courthouse wall which pronounced what we all know, “NO JUSTICE HERE”.
Laleh, of the Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee, spoke to the crowd. She talked about the difficulty but the absolute necessity of sustained anti-repression efforts in political cases like this one. She highlighted the punishments that the ACAC 19 has already had to endure. Brutal beatings in the street that left comrades bloodied and bruised with long term injuries. SFPD booked them on several felony charges along with conspiracy which made their bails as high as $51,000, required them to submit to DNA collection and allowed the gang task force to become integrally involved in the case. Laleh said, “We all need to be very aware of the significance of this.” This all was followed by a mass media smear campaign which led to vigilante threats against some defendants. Some of the ACAC 19 have been harassed by police in the last year. As if physical attacks, media attacks, police harassment, and the loss of tens of thousands of dollars to bail, legal fees and lost wages weren’t enough, the whole time the ACAC 19 have been dragged through the courts and tried for the crime of protesting colonization and capitalism on a very busy (aka high revenue) day in San Francisco. Laleh reminds us that this is the kind of repression that we should expect from the state and we need to be prepared to support our comrades in the face of this repression. It could be any one of us who is politically active. Finally, Laleh ended on a personal note, “We know these 19 people. We have worked with them. We have been through struggles with them. Whatever animosities may exist amongst some of us, we have a deep and profound love for our comrades. We are going to flood this courtroom and let them know that we will flood it every day of a trial and not let them take our comrades easily.”
Next NLG lawyer Dan Siegel addressed the crowd. He started with a Lenny Bruce joke, “‘The only justice in the Halls of Justice is in the halls.’ or in this case, out here on the sidewalk.” Dan then encouraged the crowd to consider the courtroom a political battleground, place in which to profess and argue the politics, and the actions based on them, that got you into that courtroom. He said that it was encouraging to see so many people come out to support. He reminded us that it is going to take so much more to make real changes in society. Our ability to sustain long fights is an asset that we need to foster. “If I were here to give legal advice, it would be that the DA should have two choices: drop the charges or let’s fight this out in trial.”
At the end of the rally about half of the crowd flooded into 850 Bryant making sure to allow plenty of time so that the slowdown tactics previously employed by the deputies wouldn’t hinder everyone from getting to the courtroom on time. One person reported seeing ADA Laura Claster being escorted by what appeared to be bodyguards. After waiting in the hallway for the courtroom to open, a bailiff came out to announce the rules in the courtroom and let everyone in. Attorneys immediately went into the judge’s chambers while defendants and supporters waited patiently for about an hour while 20 lawyers tried to come to an agreement on terms for a settlement. At one point, someone in the crowd tried to take a drink of some juice. The bailiff shouted, “No eating or drinking in the courtroom!” The person countered, “except for you?” referring to the bailiff’s coffee. Another bailiff then puffed out his chest, pointed at the person who dared talk back then pointed to the door, “Come on, let’s go.” Several people followed to see that the bailiff didn’t get rough. This person was thrown out and not allowed back.
The attorneys finally came out and gestured to their clients and each went off in pairs to discuss the results of their discussion. Then the defendants all got together at the end of the hall and talked it over for about a half hour. Apparently, not satisfied with the offer, they sent their attorneys back into chambers. Everyone waited for another long stretch and the attorneys came out again and the last process was repeated. This time, after a long discussion, the ACAC 19 decided to accept the offer.
The offer was a Deferred Entry of Judgment. They each had to enter a plea of “no contest” to the misdemeanor charge of “unlawful assembly”. The judge accepted the plea but did not enter a conviction or impose sentencing. The court will not do this for up to one year. Each defendant was ordered to appear at the Diversion Office where they would be instructed on how to complete 20 hours of community service and pay $750 dollars in restitution. As soon as each defendant is able to complete the required hours and pay the restitution, their attorney can appear in court and their case will be dismissed. In the end there will be no conviction but a dismissal instead. If any of the ACAC 19 are charged with another crime in the meantime, they will have to appear before Judge Collins to determine if they have violated the terms of the deferral. The judge ordered that all information collected form the cell phones by the gang task force be destroyed and ruled that the phones should be returned (though they probably shouldn’t be used by anyone who is politically active).
As difficult as it is to see comrades pleading “no contest” to the state’s bullshit charges and having these punishments imposed upon them, it is relieving to know that it is nearly over after all that these 19 have been through. In the end, trial was likely to have been more punitive than the terms of this settlement. Hopefully, their community service hours can be doing things that they already do. Community service is a natural part of being an active anti-capitalist. We just have differing ideas about what that means sometimes. The difficult part is raising the funds to make sure that all 19 are completely done with this nightmare as soon as possible. The ACAC 19 need support in this. There are plans in the works for fundraising and you can donate online here. Let’s get this over with.