Trial begins for anti-war protesters
By John Dickey
The first group of five anti-war protesters arrested in Nevada City in March began trial Tuesday on misdemeanor counts of public nuisance and unlawful assembly.
Testimony before Judge Ersel Edwards began with opening statements from Deputy District Attorney Oliver Pong and Barbara Coffman, an attorney representing defendant Meg Palley, 85, of Nevada City.
Also on trial are Harold Blickenstaff, 79; Russ Jorgensen, 85; Loraine Webb, 54; and Varnina McNair, 48, all of Nevada City.
Pong went through the events of March 20, when a large group of people decided to march through Nevada City.
The group decided to stage a sit-in at 12:15 p.m., Pong said. After about two hours, the decision was made to arrest people because traffic was clogged. Police gave orders to disperse, and when people failed to leave, the orders were given to arrest.
Coffman, in her opening statements, said Palley is innocent of any crime. Palley would testify that a small group of 12 people would sit in a circle on Broad Street. But Palley had no idea that hundreds of marchers would encircle them, filling the intersection and not wanting to leave the road.
Coffman said the defendants did not gather to commit an unlawful act. Their minor obstruction was reasonable in light of bombs dropping in Iraq, a moral imperative to say no and the worldwide movement to stop war.
The trial moved into police officer testimony as to what happened that day and defendants’ testimony regarding their motivations for participating in the protests on Broad Street.
Testimony will resume today with defendants’ statements and a defense expert witness, a sociologist who studies social movements.
A total of 17 arrested protesters are to be tried on misdemeanor charges of public nuisance and unlawful assembly. More than 40 people were arrested in the March 20 protests, sparked by objections to the war in Iraq.
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