Some members of Occupy Philadelphia were occupying a city Criminal Justice Center courtroom Tuesday - but as defendants, not just protesters for social equity.
Thirty-two of 52 Occupy protesters arrested early last Wednesday, when police cleared the Occupy encampment on Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall, had court dates before Municipal Court Judge Felice Rowley Stack.
All were given the choice of going to trial on charges of conspiracy, failure to disperse, and obstruction or entering the city's Accelerated Misdemeanor Program.
AMP is an alternative that lets nonviolent offenders pay a fine and costs and perform community service to avoid trial and possibly get their arrest record expunged.
The 32 in court Tuesday were arrested between 1:15 and 5:45 a.m. last Wednesday: one at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, five at 15th and Market Streets, and 26 right before dawn at 1500 Hamilton St. in the Spring Garden section.
According to the District Attorney's Office, 13 of the 32 accepted entry into AMP and agreed to perform 12 hours of community service and pay $199.50 in fines and court costs.
The 19 who opted for trial have a status hearing Jan. 12.
Jody Dodd, a member of the Occupy Philadelphia Legal Collective and legal assistant to Lawrence S. Krasner, a Center City lawyer leading a team providing free legal services, said the number of Occupy protesters wanting trial was not unusual.
Of 15 Occupy protesters arrested Oct. 24 after a sit-in outside Police Headquarters at Eighth and Race Streets, 10 decided to go to trial, Dodd said. All 10 are to return to Municipal Court Feb. 23.
Eight of nine people arrested Nov. 2 inside the Comcast Center have also opted for trial, Dodd said, and are to return to court Jan. 30.
Twelve of 14 Occupy protesters arrested Nov. 18 at a Wells Fargo Bank at 17th and Market Streets have also decided to go to trial, Dodd said, although she did not know if they had a court date.
Paul J. Hetznecker, a Center City civil-rights lawyer who is also part of the Occupy defense team, said that Municipal Court had set aside three days - Dec. 13, 20, and 30 - to handle the remaining 20 protesters from the 52 arrested last Wednesday.
Hetznecker said he expected the trials to examine the conflict between the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly and police use of disorderly-conduct and failure-to-disperse ordinances to arrest and end peaceful protests.
In another protest Tuesday, five of 30 people from the environmental group Earth Quaker Action Team, who staged a morning protest in the lobby of the PNC Bank building at 16th and Market Streets, were arrested after refusing to leave the building.
Ingrid Lakey, the group's director, said the demonstration was to publicize alternatives to fossil fuels and protest PNC's financing of companies that practice mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia.