Nearly 200 people arrested during Occupy Wall Street-related protests were in New York courtrooms hundreds of miles apart on Wednesday, answering charges that stemmed from a march on the Brooklyn Bridge and a demonstration in a Rochester park.
A Manhattan court plowed through arraignments of 161 people, most of them among the more than 700 picked up in an Oct. 1 march that marked the biggest mass arrest of the New York protest so far. Hundreds of other protesters arrested on the bridge and during other Occupy demonstrations in the city have already been to court, but this week’s numbers are some of the biggest.
Meanwhile, 28 Occupy Wall Street supporters asked a Rochester court to dismiss charges they violated a night-time curfew at a park. A judge didn’t immediately decide and set another hearing for Jan. 12.
In Manhattan, people lined hallways and an overflow courtroom in a courthouse that handles low-level offenses, with some defendants and supporters wearing their Occupy Wall Street allegiance on buttons and in one case, a hand-painted oxford shirt. Many had been arrested on the bridge after police said protesters ignored warnings not to leave a pedestrian path and go onto the roadway.
The demonstrators were generally charged with disorderly conduct and blocking traffic, both violations. Nearly 60 percent took a judge’s offer Wednesday to get their cases dismissed if they avoid getting arrested again for six months.
Over the nearly three months since Occupy Wall Street began, New York City police have arrested more than 1,200 people in connection with the demonstration. Besides those arraigned Wednesday, about 170 more have court dates later this week.
They, too, will appear before Ross, a veteran of prominent protest cases. In 2006, he acquitted 18 members of an activist group called the Granny Peace Brigade of disorderly conduct charges stemming from an anti-Iraq War protest outside the Times Square military recruiting station. He said the evidence showed they hadn’t blocked foot traffic or kept anyone from going in.
In Rochester, the demonstrators who appeared were among 48 arrested in a small downtown park. Their arrests were the first of Occupy supporters in upstate New York’s major cities.
They were accused of trespassing by staying in Washington Square Park after hours. But since the arrests, Mayor Tom Richards has shifted direction to let Occupy Rochester protest round the clock there. About 35 tents have since sprung up.
Protesters say Rochester is now the only city in New York state to provide a legal basis for an Occupy encampment.