Among the many signs of the profound threat that the Occupy movement poses to the status quo has been the coordinated effort by local and state police together with the Department of Homeland Security to suppress the rights of protesters. The United Nations recently criticized the United States for its violent police attacks on the movement.
In the month since the pre-NATO arrests, a new tool in the arsenal is becoming clear: turning dedicated activists into political prisoners.
Occupy Wall Street, Trinity Wall Street, and the December 17 Trial
On December 17, Occupy Wall Street attempted a reoccuptation — not of Liberty Square, but of a new space. Climbing a fence on livestream, occupiers poured into a fenced-in space owned by Trinity Wall Street, a church-run business that is historically one of New York City’s oldest landlords. The trial of 8 of these occupiers, including a retired bishop and active clergy members, concluded on June 18. Seven of the defendants, including the clergy, were convicted of trespassing and sentenced to four days of community service. But one man, Mark Adams, was singled out for especially harsh treatment.
The Village Voice quotes Judge Sciarrino’s justification for his harshness:
He issued his his ruling immediately after closing arguments, finding all eight defendants guilty of trespassing and further finding one of them, Mark Adams, guilty of attempted criminal mischief and attempted criminal possession of burglar’s tools. Adams was seen on surveillance video using what appeared to be bolt cutters to open the fence.
“This was the use of siege equipment to storm a castle,” Sciarrino said in his ruling, adding that political demonstrations are no excuse for violating property rights. “This nation is founded on the right of private property, and that right is no less important than the first amendment.”
Though the district attorney asked for a mere 30 days, the judge instead chose to charge Adams with 45 days in New York’s dangerous Rikers’ Island! Although activists who practice civil disobedience must expect to face legal consequences from time to time, occupiers are surprised by the harsh treatment from Trinity Wall Street, a business theoretically built on Christian values. The Episcopal News Service quotes Bishop George Packard:
In a June telephone interview, Packard had expressed surprise at the trespassing charges and the manner of his arrest. When he entered the property Dec. 17, he said, “I felt that we were entering into a protected area and that it was closed for the season. I had visited hunger strikers on the perimeter of that space … three or four times. …”
“Trespass is a word that I’m not used to hearing as it’s related to church property,” Packard said. “I hear expressions like ‘refuge’ and ‘sanctuary,’ and even … in the Trinity newsletter they talk about ‘radical hospitality.’”
The Continuing Plight of the NATO 5
The NATO 5, charged as terrorists by the Chicago Police with the help of their informants, remain imprisoned with high bail. Occupy Chicago recently created the Free the NATO 5 website to highlight their plight. June 20 will mark the one month anniversary of the arrests, leading to Occupy Chicago to declare an (inter)national Phone Call to Action on their behalf:
Brent, Jay, Jacob, Mark and Sebastian are still incarcerated on informant-created charges in order to justify the abject waste of taxpayer dollars on security for that war machine. Now is our chance to tell them that we haven’t forgotten. The case against the NATO5 is flimsy and only served to pattern a narrative to deter socially-conscious people from leaving their homes. We have seen this pattern of police repression and state intimidation in cases such as Cleveland5, RNC 8, FBI raids on activists in Chicago. This pattern will continue unless we do take action to stop it.
Chicago locals can physically support the NATO 5 at a solidarity action coinciding with their July 2 arraignment.
Support Occupy’s Political Prisoners
Updated June 22, 2012
An old-fashioned way to support political prisoners is through writing letters. Occupiers and allies anywhere can write to Mark Adams and any of the NATO 5. Be aware that special rules may apply for sending packages.
- * Support Mark Adams offers this Mark Adams Letter Writing Guide
- * Get Mark Adams updates and send solidarity messages via @WeLoveMarkAdams on Twitter
- * Read Occupy Chicago’s Jail Support Page for NATO 5 letter-writing information and how to donate books or other items.
If you’re near New York City or Chicago: