Contact: Pete Perry, 202-704-3963
Helen Schietinger, 202-344-5762
Four Democracy Spring Activists Acquitted
Sept. 2, 2016
WASHINGTON -- In a stirring victory for First Amendment rights in the nation's capitol, four pro-democracy activists who had participated in Democracy Spring's week of actions on Capitol Hill in April were acquitted Friday by Judge Diane Lepley of Blocking, Crowding and Incommoding, and Failure to Obey a Lawful Order. Helen Schietinger and Pete Perry of Washington, Alex Park of Virginia, and Manijeh Saba of New Jersey were thankful for the decision, recognizing its importance for those who travel to the Capitol Building and congressional offices to speak with their elected representatives.
"I want to thank Judge Lepley who deliberated over our case and decided to favor our right to peacefully assemble to communicate our concerns to Congress," said Perry. "This right is essential to a functioning democracy. We feel that this victory does not belong to us, but the entire people of America.”
The four were arrested during three different actions taking place on Capitol Hill, April 11-18. The week included the single largest nonviolent civil resistance action at the Capitol Building since the Vietnam War. Schietinger, Perry, and Saba represented themselves in court, while Park was represented by Mark Goldstone, long-time First Amendment attorney.
Goldstone said, ”I was honored to stand with these four brave citizen-activists and also with Ric Galanits whose case was dismissed at trial. They were part of the Democracy Spring movement which is committed to winning sweeping democracy reforms that would end the corruption of big money in politics and guarantee the right to vote for all. In April 2016 Democracy Spring organized the largest American civil disobedience action of this century, with over 1,300 people being arrested after nonviolently sitting in on the steps of the US Capitol and demanding reform to reclaim our democracy from the plutocrats, the special interests and the 1%.”
Manijeh Saba, a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. in the 1970s, recalled the trial, "During our trial I showed Judge Lepley my copy of the U.S. Constitution, which I always carry with me, and which I swore an oath to defend. That is absolutely what I was doing both in April and most recently by defending our First Amendment rights in court.”
According to Schietinger, “I believe this is a landmark decision. Judge Lepley has recognized the importance of our having a fair trial.”
"I hope the actions by my co-defendants and I inspire further actions and educate the people of this country as to how we must win back our democracy,” Park said after the verdict was rendered.
**I Promise to provide some detailed analysis in a future blog**