In the matter of The People V. Wells Fargo the jury has found us, the 12 Occupy Philly protesters arrested in November 2011 for a sit-in against the banks’ predatory lending practices and mafia-like policies, NOT GUILTY. We would all ask for you to please share this story with your networks and local press. Free speech just triumphed over property rights, even as the DA talked shit on twitter. Thank you to everyone for the support! It got us through that anxious time. Please share. This is history.
One of the only Occupy-related trials in the country to be argued before a jury, today also marked the first civil disobedience Free Speech case in recent Philadelphia memory. Defendants included a non-profit housing counselor, a Wells Fargo mortgage holder, a local teacher, an activist who participated in Civil Rights Era struggles, and Temple and Penn graduate students. During testimony, they pointed to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission’s report on Wells Fargo’s prejudicial lending practices and investigations by the Pennsylvania State Auditor General’s Office to draw connections between Wells Fargo’s profiteering and the defunding of our communities and school district. The group was defended by seven local lawyers working pro bono: Leo Mulvihill, Jr., Marni Snyder, Paul Hetznecker, Mike Lee, Michael Coard, Larry Krasner, and Jon Feinberg. “Today the people of Philadelphia defended the First Amendment,” said Defense Attorney Marni Snyder, one of seven lawyers who volunteered to represent the protestors pro-bono. “We sent a clear message to the District Attorney’s Office: prosecute the real criminals at Wells Fargo; these twelve defendants stand on the side of justice.”
“If this jury has found us innocent then it must mean that Wells Fargo is guilty,” said an elated 71-year-old Willard R. Johnson, one of the 12 on trial.
Judge Nina N. Wright Padilla asked all 12 to approach so she could shake their hands. “I hope you continue your work in a law-abiding way,” said Padilla. “I must say you are the most affable group of defendants I’ve ever come across.”
The current trial began Feb. 25 with seven lawyers representing the 12 free of charge. The defense argued that the sit-in was protected by the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee. They also contended the protest served a “greater good” for society that outweighed the trespass charge.
Here are a few links to familiarize yourself with the story: