can they imprison us for political protest?

UPDATE: See below for the announcement that the sentencing has been stayed.


"Can they imprison us for political protest?" We're about to find out, right here in Gotham.

Yesterday New York City closed down 5th Avenue for the benefit of a group of people wishing to demonstrate American support for Israel. On Wednesday the same city will be sentencing, quite possibly to prison terms, another group of people who briefly closed down the same Avenue last year. Their wish? They hoped to demonstrate oppositon to what America is doing in the Middle East, including its support for the Israeli government's murderous policy.

Four defendants have already been convicted of "blocking traffic," but they will hear their sentences read Wednesday morning. The prosecution team is calling for jail time, based on several protest cases previously dismissed and sealed by the courts. All current charges, as well as the past charges which were supposed to have remained hidden, involve non-violent protest. The District Attorney has cited the four advocates' history of advocacy with AIDS/Queer/Abortion/Police Brutality activism as reason for harsh sentencing, thus officially criminalizing political protest.

It has been decades since New York courts have even tried to argue that such defendants should serve time. If the move is successful this week, the long-term implications for political dissent will be horrendous. But the short-term consequences are surely the agenda of this district attorney, this police commissioner, this born-again-Republican mayor and the administration in Washington he hopes to impress. This is an election year, we are in the midst of a costly and increasingly unpopular war, and we are just now entering an anxious, hot summer which will climax in a massive political rally conducted by a failed, deceptive, radical regime which was imposed upon a world it has horribly wounded. The stakes are very, very high.

Our support of a better way, a better world, is needed this week. Our presence inside and outside of the courtroom will help these four courageous activists and of course it will help us all, including countless people who will never hear about their sacrifice or our modest witness. Please come to the Manhattan Criminal Court Building just east and a few blocks north of City Hall on Wednesday morning, May 26, at 9 am for the 9:30 am sentencing. The address is 100 Centre Street, Room 533.

For photographs and more information, including that on the fate of the 12 defendents sentenced earlier, see the M26 site.

UPDATE (Monday, May 24, 6:35 pm)


Late today it was announced that the sentencing, originally scheduled for May 26, has been stayed, pending an appeal for review of a petition by the four against Supreme Court Justice Cataldo and the District Attorney of Manhattan (on the issue of the unsealing of dismissed cases). This means that they will appear again in court at a date in July at the earliest.

Do not show up this Wednesday; there will be nothing happening there on this case at that time.

Friends of the convicted activists are asking instead for help in finding lawyers who would want to file a brief on this case. The case is expected to be very important in establishing both political and legal precedent for all kinds of defendants.

Those who know lawyers who might be interested in this important case are asked to contact Jonathan Kirshbaum at [phone number deleted].

Even those who are not close to lawyers can help with the legal fees and fines associated with the case. Contributions of all sizes can be made through paypal on the M26 site.

[image, of the March 26 protest, by Fred Askew on the M26 site]

James --

According to a new update at, the sentencing has now been postponed...

About this Entry

Published on May 24, 2004 2:49 PM.

previous entry: high crimes and misdemeanors

next entry: aux armes, mes enfants!