They protested on Wall Street and at other landmarks of New York throughout the autumn months, but on Wednesday, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators occupied a courtroom. It was the end result of the more than 1,700 arrests of protesters by the NYPD throughout the autumn.
The demonstrators mostly faced misdemeanor charges, such as disorderly conduct and blocking vehicular traffic during protests like their march on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1st. The mass arrests that accompanied that act of civil disobedience led to the block-long line of protesters outside of a city office building on Leonard Street at Broadway Wednesday. But the crowd was not there to protest this time. Instead, they had all come to court.
"I'm here twice a month and I've never seen it like this before," Robert Quackenbush told PIX11 News. He is an attorney representing some of the 700 protesters whose cases went before the judge. There were so many cases that needed to be heard that they were heard in a special courtroom.
The room on the fourth floor of 346 Broadway is usually used for the simplest misdemeanor cases, such as public nuisance citations or traffic ticket disputes, according to lawyers on hand.
"It's a zoo in there," Quackenbush said. He told PIX11 News that he was surprised that the high volume of cases would be heard at the special courtroom.
In the majority of those cases, the judge made the same pronouncement to defendants. "Ma'am, both your matters are ACD," He told one woman, and used the same acronym in his statement to the man who came before the bench after her.
"ACD," was the ruling the court meted out again and again, taking only about 30 seconds to make each ruling. ACD stands for adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, a legal term that allows a defendant's case to be dismissed after six months, provided the person does not get into any legal trouble during that time.
"I didn't do anything wrong," protester Amanda Geraci told PIX11 News about her decision to not accept an ACD ruling in her case. She was among at least 150 demonstrators who refused to accept an ACD. "I don't think this should go away or [that] I should say I did something I didn't do," she said.
Her case won't go away. She'll now have to take off from her job in Philadelphia again in order to return to court for future hearings, in which, she believes, she will eventually be declared not guilty.
Geraci, a social worker, said that the principle of being found innocent is worth her lost time and lost wages. However, many of the protesters and their attorneys say that it's not worth taxpayer money for the courts to be tied up with Occupy protesters' cases.
"These are not the kind of people who should be arrested and threatened with jail time," attorney Robert Quackenbush told PIX11 News. "That's a poor use of resources."
The Manhattan district attorney's office is prosecuting the protest arrest cases. PIX11 News asked a spokesperson from the DA's office for a reaction to defendants' statements that their hearings wasted taxpayer money. The district attorney's office had no comment.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times