Protesters who halted traffic on an Oakland freeway as part of the March 4 “Day of Action” defending public education appeared in Alameda Superior Court on Friday, April 2.
Most of the charges against protesters have since been reduced from misdemeanors to infractions. Demonstrators will reappear in court on May 4.
The National Lawyer’s Guild (NLG) represented all of the protesters that appeared in court Friday. Those charged with infractions are not entitled to a court appointed attorney because they are infractions, Judge Karen A. Rodrigue said. Rodrigue recently presided over another case resulting from education cuts protests at UC Berkeley the week before the March 4 action.
The first protester called was Laney College student Hannibal Shakur (Lamar Caldwell). The Judge then read Shakur’s four charges: failing to obey traffic control, using a freeway in a manner restricted, being a pedestrian on a freeway.
Shakur was also charged with being a “pedestrian outside a crosswalk.” This charge sent giggles throughout the courtroom.
Alameda County District Attorney Violet James turned around and told the crowd to “keep composure.” Soon after, one of the Deputy Sheriff’s present threatened to escort anyone talking out of the court.
NLG attorney John Viola began to enter a plea of not guilty on all counts, but since another NLG attorney would likely be representing the protesters, he requested the arraignment be continued to a later date.
He asked Judge Rodrigue if she wanted to hear a preview of the motion to dismiss charges, but she responded no, because the DA would probably want that in writing. Shakur’s next court data was scheduled to May 4 at 5:30 p.m.
All other defendants were quickly processed with their court dates being set for May 4, also. Most faced similar charges such as obstructing a public place and failure to obey traffic signs. One of the three protesters whose charges were not reduced to misdemeanors includes another Laney College student.
More protesters are scheduled to be in court Monday, April 5 at 9 a.m. at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Department 107. A press conference will be held Monday at 8:30 a.m. in front of the courthouse.
Photos from March 4 freeway action
Friday, April 02, 2010 The Black Hour