Protesters gathered into a packed Atlanta courtroom Wednesday morning to face charges stemming from their occupation of a downtown park.
Channel 2’s Linda Stouffer was at the Atlanta Municipal court, where protesters were charged with use of a public park at night, which could bring up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Hours later, they were released from jail and met by cheers from supporters.
Members of the Occupy Atlanta movement spent weeks camped out in Woodruff Park, protesting a wide range of economic and social issues, but their stay was cut short when Atlanta police stormed the park around midnight. Police said they first told more than 100 protesters to leave, but after their warning, 53 who refused were arrested.
Nine lawyers are working pro bono to defend the group. An attorney for State Sen. Vincent Fort, who was among those arrested, disputes the constitutionality of the arrests.
“It's tough to say what authority exactly governs here and whether or not the First Amendment usurps everything that the mayor has put in place,” Musa Ghanayem said at the hearing.
Another attorney said the group’s case has been handled unfairly, saying they should have been able to bond out immediately. Though, they were granted bond eventually.
“I think the way it's being handled, it's all political and unfortunately, these young people, who have been organizing peacefully, are now thrown into a political process,” Davis Mawuli said.
Occupy Atlanta members said they plan to hold a news conference after the hearing. They said they are on the lookout for another spot to occupy.
The group is set for a March 9 arraignment.