On Monday, June 18, seven Occupy Wall Street protesters were convicted for trespassing on property allegedly owned by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal church and powerful Lower Manhattan landlord, during an action on December 17 of last year. An eighth defendant, Mark Adams, was convicted of trespassing, attempted criminal mischief and attempted possession of burglary tools. Adams is Occupy Wall Street’s first activist convicted and sentenced to jail time in a group trial.
The December action, called “Take Back the Commons” or simply “#D17,” was an effort to reestablish an encampment a month after the movement’s violent eviction from Zuccotti Park. It took place at Duarte Square, a plot of then-unused land a mile uptown from Trinity Church.
The trial lasted for more than a week and came after a series of political battles between Occupy Wall Street and Trinity, including protests, vigils, pickets, religious services, public statements by Chris Hedges and Daniel Berrigan, among others, and a petition with 14,000 signatures from all over the country demanding that Trinity not pursue the charges.
Because the eight cases were consolidated and tried at the same time, the defendants were represented by four lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild, New York City chapter. But despite having a team of civil rights attorneys, without a jury trial, these eight people’s fates rested on the whim of Judge Matthew Sciarrino.
The defense filed two subpoena requests for information from Trinity and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which the attorneys argued were not fully complied with and thus grounds to postpone the trial pending full compliance. Several ...