Read

Search form

Jury Finds 12 Philadelphia Protesters Not Guilty for Wells Fargo Sit-In

Jury Finds 12 Philadelphia Protesters Not Guilty for Wells Fargo Sit-In
Wed, 3/6/2013 - by jackiews
This article originally appeared on InterOccupy

In the matter of The People v. Wells Fargo the jury has found 12 Occupy Philadelphia protesters, arrested in November 2011 for a sit-in against the banks’ predatory lending practices and mafia-like policies, not guilty.

One of the only Occupy-related trials in the country to be argued before a jury, Tuesday 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 Philadelphia's 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. “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 of the acquitted 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 protesters were on trial with charges of defiant trespass and conspiracy to commit defiant trespass, stemming from a sit-in conducted at Wells Fargo in the center city on November 18, 2011. During the action they "foreclosed" upon Wells Fargo, a bank known to engage in racist predatory lending, unjust foreclosures, selling and profiting from bad loans to the Philadelphia school district, and playing a significant role in orchestrating the mortgage debt crisis which contributed to the country's current recession.

The seven pro bono defense attorneys argued in court that the protesters had a 1st Amendment right to conduct the sit-in in the bank lobby, and to demand to speak to someone from Wells Fargo who could change the unfair policies. They also argued the protesters were compelled to speak out and that they refused to leave the bank lobby to prevent further harm being done to the public, known as the justification defense.

The greater harm they were referring to was the continuation of unlawful business practices that led the city to pay out millions to Wells Fargo, and the continuing home foreclosures happening to families all over the country.

The group of lawyers, defendants and their supporters returned to court several times to hear questions from the jury which required an oral response from the judge in front of all parties. First, the jury had asked to be excused because of its inability to come to a unanimous decision, as no one willing to change his or her vote.

But the judge instructed them to further deliberate. The jury came back and asked a question about the "justification defense," an indication that they might be considering nullification of the misdemeanor charges of criminal conspiracy and defiant trespassing.

The defense successfully 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.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Internal Revenue Service, new IRS rules, 501(c)4, partisan political activity, freedom of speech, money in politics, money is not speech, Public Citizen, freedom of advocacy

After Sept. 30, political and civic activists of all ideologies may need to reassess their action plans, as the IRS substantially revises regulations governing the tax-exempt status of political speech by 501(c)(4) organizations.

Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo accounts scam, city bonds,

California, the nation’s largest issuer of municipal bonds, is barring Wells from underwriting state debt and handling its banking transactions after the company admitted to opening millions of bogus customer accounts.

Environmental Protection Agency, fracking, fracking wastewater, Gulf of Mexico, Endangered Species Act, pollution

Environmentalists are warning the agency that its draft plan to continue allowing oil and gas companies to dump unlimited amounts of fracking chemicals and wastewater directly into the Gulf is in violation of federal law.

occupy, activism, creative activism, Yemen, #RememberYemen, Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, Islam, hijab, Abaya, Muslim Extremism, Saudi-led coalition, weapons sales, Chris Murphy, Code Pink, Saudi Kingdom, Yemeni conflict, Bushra al-Fusail, human rights, women’

Bushra al-Fusail is a Yemeni-American who lived under the ongoing airstrikes in Yemen for months before coming, ironically, to the country that makes the destruction of hers possible.

carbon emissions, runaway climate change, emissions reductions, Carbon Tracker Initiative, Oil Change International, Apache Corporation, Paris climate treaty, Keep It In the Ground, fracking, fossil fuel reserves

The numbers on global warming are even scarier than we thought.

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

Posted 6 days 8 hours ago
student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

Posted 6 days 8 hours ago
Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party, Scottish Independence referendum, indyref, Brexit, Better Together

In light of the Brexit chaos, the broken promises and democratic deficit, it would be easy to think independence is certain – and judging by the movement's energy in Scotland, 2018 could be the year.

Posted 2 days 21 hours ago
DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

Posted 6 days 8 hours ago
occupy, activism, creative activism, Yemen, #RememberYemen, Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, Islam, hijab, Abaya, Muslim Extremism, Saudi-led coalition, weapons sales, Chris Murphy, Code Pink, Saudi Kingdom, Yemeni conflict, Bushra al-Fusail, human rights, women’

Bushra al-Fusail is a Yemeni-American who lived under the ongoing airstrikes in Yemen for months before coming, ironically, to the country that makes the destruction of hers possible.

Posted 1 day 6 hours ago
DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party, Scottish Independence referendum, indyref, Brexit, Better Together

In light of the Brexit chaos, the broken promises and democratic deficit, it would be easy to think independence is certain – and judging by the movement's energy in Scotland, 2018 could be the year.

occupy, activism, creative activism, Yemen, #RememberYemen, Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, Islam, hijab, Abaya, Muslim Extremism, Saudi-led coalition, weapons sales, Chris Murphy, Code Pink, Saudi Kingdom, Yemeni conflict, Bushra al-Fusail, human rights, women’

Bushra al-Fusail is a Yemeni-American who lived under the ongoing airstrikes in Yemen for months before coming, ironically, to the country that makes the destruction of hers possible.