More than 200 Occupy L.A. protesters remain in jail
More than 200 people arrested during the Occupy L.A. sweep remained in jail Thursday night, drawing protests from civil right attorneys who said many may not face charges and should be freed immediately.
As the total of nearly 300 arrestees began moving through the criminal justice system, Los Angeles Police Department records offered a more detailed portrait of those involved in the final throes of the two-month demonstration.
They show that the arrestees skewed young, white and male, but included a wide spectrum of races and ages. Most came from the Los Angeles area.
Prosecutors have filed criminal charges against 19 protesters, most of whom were released without bail Thursday after appearing before Los Angeles County Superior Court judges. One condition of their release was that they not return to the City Hall area, where the protesters had camped.
One civil rights attorney present at the court proceedings said the release condition was unfair.
“But more unfair are the folks who had no prior convictions, who will not be charged and who are still in jail,” said Cynthia Andersen-Barker.
About 50 protesters without criminal records who may qualify for a diversion program were ordered released from jail — though some remained in custody late Thursday. More are likely to be released under that program in the coming days, officials said.
Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said he expects more protesters to be criminally charged, particularly those with criminal records. The length of protesters’ jail stays was not unusual, he said.
“It’s an unfortunate fact of life in this country,” he said. “Perhaps this will sensitize people to what it means to get arrested.”
But Carol Sobel, an attorney who has advised the protesters, said: “They’re being punished for being a part of Occupy L.A.”
Most of those arrested ultimately will qualify for the diversion program and will not face charges, she predicted. The arrestees face potential charges of failure to disperse and, in a few cases, resisting arrest. They faced a minimum bail of $5,000. About 40 had been bailed out Thursday.
The arrest records show that the median age of the group is 26, and men outnumber women nearly 3-to-1. Forty-eight are not old enough to legally drink alcohol. The oldest, 79-year-old Dorothy Sarnoff of Highland Park, turned 21 during the Eisenhower administration.
Most were local, although 20 arrestees told police they live outside the state, listing hometowns as far away as Roopville, Ga., and Ithaca, N.Y.
No occupation was reported for about 100 arrestees. Others listed varied jobs, including actor, architect, barista, pizza deliveryman, poet and taxi driver.
Twenty-eight-year-old Christopher French was among them. He was taken into custody for remaining in City Hall park even after police issued a dispersal order early Wednesday. He was holding a white rose in his hand — a scene captured by several photographers.
French said he was released from jail after a sympathetic bail commissioner reduced his bail. He has been given a Jan. 5 trial date. He complained about the way protesters were treated after they were arrested, saying he and others were kept in plastic handcuffs for seven hours.
In the days since their eviction, protesters have collected money for a bail fund. At least one protester, 35-year-old Tyson Header, was charged with battery and assault on a peace officer after he allegedly spit on an officer during his arrest, according to records.
City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has complained in the past about “career protesters,” whose actions he says drain city resources and disrupt the lives of average citizens.
Trutanich, who may run for county district attorney, has said his office does not prosecute protesters’ for the content of their demonstration, only their conduct.
Carter, the chief deputy city attorney, said Thursday that even though many city officials embraced the message of Occupy L.A., the city had not suspended a ban on overnight camping on City Hall grounds.
“The laws on the books never changed,” he said.
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