The struggle continues! Pack the courtroom!

Dear friends and supporters,

In the past few weeks we watched as one arrestee had his charges completely dropped for lack of evidence, we witnessed a judge rule in favor of repressive state tactics when a Defender contested the legitimacy of the riot charges, we stood by our comrades who plead out, and we promised to continue to fight for all the Defenders who are going to trial!  As we watch the extreme and repressive prosecution of Occupy and community activists across the country, we learn that what is happening in our town is not an isolated case, but a systematic attack on those who believe in fighting for justice.  We must let the city and the country know that we will not allow for this!  We must stand together and continue to support our friends and comrades as they face an unjust legal system!

Another week of court dates as folks from Occupy Homes MN continue to face absurd charges after eviction attempts at the Cruz home in May and June.

Pack the courtroom on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week in support of our friends and comrades, especially those facing riot charges!

You can find the court room by looking for the defendant’s name on the monitors in Govt. Center lobby:

  • Monday 8/27 @ 130 PM in HCGC: Pre-trial for six J21 and May 30th Defenders, some facing riot charge (Look for Gilbert-Pederson)
  • Wednesday 8/29 @ 130 PM in HCGC: Pre-trial for three May 30th Defenders, some facing riot charge (Look for Rechitsky)
  • Thursday 8/30 @ 130 PM in HCGC: Pre-trial for May 29th Neighbor Defender and May 30th Defender facing riot charge (Name TBA)
  • Friday 8/31 @ 830 AM: Hearing for May 25 Defender (Look for De Gracia)
  • Friday 8/31 @ 130 PM in HCGC: Pre-trial for one J21 Defender

If you can’t make those times and still want to show support, some people also have arraignments in the Public Safety Facility across the street.

  • Monday 8/27 @ 830 AM in PSF: Arraignment for one J21 Defender (Erickson)
  • Friday 8/31 @ 830 AM in PSF: Arraignment for one J21 Defender 8:30 am: (Malles)

***And don’t forget to continue the call-in campaign.  Keep the pressure on the Mayor’s office and the City Attorneys, let them know we will not stand for the criminalization of community activists fighting for housing justice!  Please call the following people with the below demands:

Demand that:

  • All charges against community members defending the Cruz family home be dropped.
  • All police, including Chief Dolan, who used violence against peaceful protesters be formally disciplined.
  • No more public resources be used to help banks evict our neighbors!

And check out this recent article from Alternet:

 

Solidarity Forever!

The Cruz Defenders Support Committee

Advertisements

Join us in court this week! Call-in Campaign continues!

Hey folks —

PLEASE do not forget that THIS week 19 OTHER OHMN members who stood up for homeowners against bank foreclosures and evictions have court appearances in Minneapolis.

We have a busy week this week. OHMN comrades’ court appearances are on the same days that the National Occupy Our Homes Convening and Panel discussions are occurring in Minneapolis. We need your help in filling the courtrooms.  Our comrades fighting foreclosures deserve and need our support from their Minneapolis and Saint Paul communities. 10 people are facing trumped up 3rd degree riot charges (gross misdemeanor).

Two things YOU CAN DO this week to support and demonstrate solidarity with these people:

(1) ATTEND court appearances on Wednesday and Thursday.

(2) CALL the Mayor’s office; call the City Attorney’s office.

(1) TAKE TIME OFF of WORK THIS WEEK & ATTEND COURT:

Having the court room full with supporters is making an impact!  Come join us, get to know others in our community who have been fighting for peace and civil rights and engage with them about why we occupy and how we are successfully fighting foreclosures and evictions in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

  • Wednesday 8/8 @ 830 AM in Public Safety, Minneapolis: 2 arraignments
  • Wednesday 8/8 @130 in Hennepin City Govt Center, Minneapolis: 2 pre-trial (look up the last name Olivier on the board to find the room)
  • Thursday 8/9 @ 830 AM in Public Safety, Minneapolis: 1 arraignment
  • Thursday 8/9 @130 AM in Hennepin City Govt Center, Minneapolis: 14 pre-trial (look up the last name Meeker or Salonek on the board to find the room)

No names are needed to attend Wednesday’s or Thursday’s arraignments, at Public Safety in Minneapolis, just show up.

(2) CALL MAYOR R.T. RYBACK’S Office & the CITY ATTORNEY’S Offices:

Please call the following people with the below demands:

Call in Campaign with these demands:

  • All charges against community members defending the Cruz family home be dropped.
  • All police, including Chief Dolan, who used violence against peaceful protesters be formally disciplined.
  • No more public resources be used to help banks evict our neighbors!

Thank you!!!  We need you.  United we stand, divided we fall.

Rally shows support for Defender Nick, onwards to trial!

Over the lunch hour about two-dozen organizers, activists and first amendment supporters gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center then packed the courtroom. The group was there to support and stand in solidarity with Nick Espinosa for his pretrial hearing–the first of the 15 from the Cruz Home facing riot charges.

Before the hearing began a few people in the group spoke about the absurdity of the riot charges and how this is part of a national trend to crack down on organizers and activists who exercise their constitutional right to free speech.

Nick refused the plea bargain offered as charges have not been dropped for the remaining arrestees, and will be going to trial on Sept. 19th.  He says:
Thanks to everyone who came out to support me at my pretrial hearing today! They offered me a misdemeanor that would be off my record with no same or similar arrests for a year. My counter offer was to plea to a petty misdemeanor if they drop all charges for the remaining 33 arrestees. Needless to say, we’re going to trial.
Onward–Drop the charges now!
We will not stand for repressive charges trying to intimidate community activists!  Continue the call in campaign and demand that:

-All charges against community members defending the Cruz family home be dropped.
-All police, including Chief Dolan, who used violence against peaceful protesters be formally disciplined.
-No more public resources be used to help banks evict our neighbors!

Please call the following people with the above demands:
Mayor R.T. Rybak (612) 673-2100
City Attorney Susan L. Segal (612) 673-3272
Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng (612) 673-2270

Thank you,

The Cruz Defenders Support Committee

Press conference and rally denouncing trumped up charges against Occupy Homes activist Nick Espinosa

Comrades,
As defendants from the Cruz house actions move through the “justice” system, it’s imperative that we keep pressure on the city. We’re all busy and working ourselves to the bone, but if you can, take a moment to defend each other and our movements from state repression. Let’s fight these charges so we can all keep doing the work that means so much to us. There’s a few things you can do:
ATTEND A RALLY TOMORROW:
  • When: Wednesday, August 1, 12:30
  • Where: in front of the Hennepin County Gov’t Center
  • Who: supporters from the Occupy movement and the community at large
  • What: Nick Espinosa pretrial hearing on trumped up charges Hennepin County Government Center

Nick Espinosa has been charged with third degree riot, along with several other Occupy Homes activists. The charge is baseless. Espinosa is only guilty of trying to be his brothers’ keeper by struggling to keep banks from foreclosing on the homes of fellow human beings – many who actually have the ability to pay.
However this charge and the others are simply trumped up charges in an attempt by authorities to stifle and shut down the anti-foreclosure work of Occupy Homes. In fact, the charges are an attempt to stifle all free speech and freedom of expression.

The city of Minneapolis, while saying it is sympathetic to the work of Occupy Homes in its efforts to keep homeowners in their homes, has nevertheless employed thousands of police man hours to intervene in what is an essentially a dispute between the homeowner in this case the Cruz family and Freddie Mac who owns the property.
This young man and others should be commended for doing what the government refuses to do, which is to stand up to the bullying of the big banks, which have used all kinds of trickery and chicanery to steal homes out from under hard working people.

CALL THE MAYOR AND CITY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE.
Continue the call in campaign and demand that:

-All charges against community members defending the Cruz family home be dropped.
-All police, including Chief Dolan, who used violence against peaceful protesters be formally disciplined.
-No more public resources be used to help banks evict our neighbors!

Please call the following people with the above demands:
Mayor R.T. Rybak (612) 673-2100
City Attorney Susan L. Segal (612) 673-3272
Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng (612) 673-2270

Thank you,

The Cruz Defenders Support Committee

Minneapolis Court Supports Citizens’ Right to Protest Foreclosures: Judge Denies Prosecutor’s Attempt to Add Additional Trumped-Up Charges

The Occupy movement in Minneapolis reached an important milestone on Monday, July 30, 2012 with the resolution of a case brought against four protesters arrested at a peaceful demonstration on October 20, 2011. Judge Daniel Moreno denied the prosecutor’s attempt to add three additional charges to the original complaint less than two weeks before trial, and prevented the prosecutor from singling out individuals with previous political arrests for harsher treatment. Ultimately, four defendants, Misty Rowan, Katrina Plotz, Ben Egerman, and Peter Leeman agreed to a conviction of one petty misdemeanor each, a non-criminal violation which is basically equivalent to a traffic ticket. Dozens of supporters attended the proceedings in solidarity with the defendants and celebrated the resolution as a victory.

This case and recent arrests of dozens of OccupyHomes MN activists defending the Cruz home in South Minneapolis show that the City of Minneapolis, through the Minneapolis Police Department and City Attorney’s office are attempting to intimidate activists and shut down the Occupy movement with tough tactics and unreasonable charges. The resolution of this case shows that Mayor R.T. Rybak’s efforts to suppress dissent can be defeated with the help of a strong legal defense and solidarity from all who seek to create a more just society.

Background on the case: On October 20, 2011, about a hundred people participated in a demonstration in front of U.S. Bank in downtown Minneapolis to draw attention to the fact that in 2010 alone, over 25,000 Minnesotans lost their homes to foreclosure. Meanwhile, U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis saw his salary more than double to $18.8 million this year, and U.S. Bancorp reported record profits of $1.3 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2011. Tired of seeing banks refuse to negotiate with homeowners while making record profits, protesters moved into the intersection of 2nd Ave and 6th St. Police blocked and re-routed traffic, which allowed the demonstration to continue.

Eventually, seven people were arrested and charged with violating Minneapolis City Ordinance 385.65 which prohibits “interfering with pedestrian and vehicular traffic.” At the first court appearance in November, the prosecutor, Patrick Marzitelli, offered some defendants the opportunity to plead guilty to a petty misdemeanor, but insisted on charging Misty Rowan and Katrina Plotz with criminal misdemeanors, even though all seven defendants engaged in the same activity on the same day in the same place. The decision to treat some people differently based on past civil disobedience activities was clearly an attempt to silence, intimidate, and deter all citizens from engaging in political dissent.At subsequent court appearances, the prosecutor and his supervisor, Assistant City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng again refused to offer everyone the same deal. Rowan and Plotz, along with Ben Egerman and Peter Leeman declined to accept these terms, and were scheduled to go to trial July 30.

Defense attorneys Jordan Kushner and Andrea Palumbo filed a motion to dismiss the initial charge on the grounds that the city ordinance in question was unconstitutional. In response, Marzitelli added three new misdemeanor charges to the original complaint (unlawful assembly, creating a public nuisance, and disobeying a peace officer).

On July 30, Judge Moreno denied the motion to dismiss the original charge. Kushner then argued that the addition of three new charges was untimely and not based on any new facts in the case. When Kushner asserted that the extra charges seemed designed to punish the defendants for refusing to take previous “deals,” Marzitelli objected, saying, “There is no evidence to suggest that the amended complaint is retaliatory in nature.” His objection was overruled.

Judge Moreno ultimately granted the defense’s request to eliminate the additional charges. He then took the unusual step of allowing Rowan and Plotz the option of a “straight plea.” Under this arrangement, they could each plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but as the judge, he would sentence them to a petty misdemeanor and it would be recorded as such, essentially bypassing the prosecutor’s insistence that they should each be stuck with a misdemeanor. Rowan and Plotz both chose this option. Leeman and Egerman pled guilty to a petty misdemeanor as well.

Legal Updates from Occupy Homes MN

Dear friends and supporters,

Yesterday marked an important day in the ongoing struggle for housing justice in Minneapolis.  As 11 of the 37 people arrested defending the Cruz house arrived for their pre-trial hearing, they were joined by over 60 supporters demanding the city drop the charges.  The courtroom was packed as all 11 refused to plead guilty to a range of charges, including 3rd degree riot, a gross misdemeanor. However, this next month will see court dates for many of those arrested during Occupy Homes MN actions–please come to show your support if you can!

Court Support:

There are four court appearances for Occupy Homes activists in the next week. All are expected to be held at the Hennepin County Government Center. Please come and support those who have put their bodies on the line for housing justice!

Thurs, July 26, 8:30 AM – Hearings for J21 Civil Disobedience arrestees

Fri, July 27, 8:30 AM – Hearings for J21 Civil Disobedience arrestees

Mon, July 30, 8:30 AM – TRIAL for October 20 US Bank Tent action arrestees
Wednesday, Aug 1, 1:30 PM – Pre-Trial for May 30th eviction arrestees

For more details on the upcoming court appearances, please check this google doc.

Call-In Campaign:

We are also asking our supporters to call in to the mayor and city attorney’s office and call on them to stop the persecution of anti-foreclosure advocates. Please call in to demand:

  • All charges against Cruz home defenders and anti foreclosure activists be dropped.
  • All police, including Chief Dolan, who used violence against peaceful protesters be formally disciplined.
  • No more public resources be used to help banks evict our neighbors!
Please call the following people with the above demands:

Mayor R.T. Rybak (612) 673-2100

City Attorney Susan L. Segal (612) 673-3272

Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng (612) 673-2270

Trespassing Charge Dismissed:

In another recent development, the unfounded trespassing charge that activist Ben Egerman was facing for stepping on the sidewalk outside a U.S. Bank branch has been dismissed. The city dismissed this ludicrous charge only after U.S. Bank filed a motion to quash defense subpoenas for relevant bank documents, including any communications between U.S. Bank and the Minneapolis Police Department. This is further evidence that the City Attorney’s office is more beholden to pressure from the big banks than from the citizens of Minneapolis.

Thank you for your support–we won’t be intimated, we won’t be moved,
Occupy Homes MN

Riot Charges Against Anti-Foreclosure Activists Provoke Protest in City Hall

COMMUNITY SUPPORTERS RALLY IN CITY HALL TO SUPPORT PEACEFUL ANTI-FORECLOSURE ACTIVISTS WHO HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH RIOTING.

Chants of “drop the charges” echoed through City Hall this afternoon as 60 community supporters rallied to demand City Attorney Susan Segal drop all charges against anti-foreclosure protesters from the Occupy movement. Afterwards supporters packed the courtroom and overflowed into the hall as 11 defendants refused to plead guilty to their charges at the pretrial hearing.

On May 30, fifteen community supporters were peacefully arrested at the foreclosed Cruz family home as many linked arms and sat on the front stoop. Though they were originally charged with trespassing, the city decided to escalate the charges. 14 of the protesters arrested that day, as well as another arrested during a 4:00am raid on the Cruz family’s home,  now face charges of third degree riot, a gross misdemeanor, along with four other misdemeanors–which carry a total sentence of up to 2 years in prison and a $7,000 fine.

“The Minneapolis City Attorney’s decision to tack on charges of Third Degree Rioting–merely for being present at the Cruz home–is an outrageous abuse of the charging function,” said Michael Friedman, Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center. “The general public certainly knows what a riot is and what it isn’t; a law school education is not required.”

“The City Attorney and Mayor RT Rybak are using the coercion of the criminal justice system for political purposes, while failing to help families whose homes are being taken by unscrupulous banks,” said Rachel E.B. Lang, a local attorney working with the Occupy Homes movement. “The legal defense team will fight these absurd charges tooth and nail.”

“We’ve lost our way as a society when wealthy banks face little or no consequences for robbing us of our family homes but everyday people who peacefully stand up to them face outrageous and dishonest charges,” said internationally renowned hip hop artist Brother Ali. “Our souls won’t allow us to settle for anything short of justice for hard working families and the people who stand with them.”

Four activists arrested at another demonstration last October while sitting in tents that read “Stop Foreclosure Now” in the street outside US Bank Plaza learned this week that the City Attorney’s office was also bringing escalated charges against them. Three new misdemeanors were added just two weeks before trial, which is set to begin next Monday, July 30.

“We’re getting the message: the city of Minneapolis would rather put time and resources towards prosecuting those fighting foreclosure than address the crisis or hold accountable the financial institutions responsible,” said Susan Kikuchi, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN.

BROTHER ALI, WHO WAS ARRESTED IN AN ACT OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AT THE CRUZ HOME JUNE 21, ADDRESSES THE CROWD.

Protesters demanded that all charges be dropped; that all police who used violence in the course of these evictions, including Chief Tim Dolan, who was photographed stepping on peaceful protesters, be formally disciplined; and that no more public resources be used to carry out evictions.

Occupy Homes MN’s defense of the Cruz home made headlines around the country this spring after protesters repeatedly fended off sheriffs and police who came to evict the home; the Cruz family traveled to PNC Bank headquarters in Pittsburgh to renegotiate their loan in person; the city of Minneapolis spent over $42,000 on police forces at the Cruz home; and 37 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience, including hip-hop artist Brother Ali.