Occupy protesters denounce indictments

Dec. 21, 2011 at 4:42 PM
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HOUSTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Occupy Houston protesters called the indictment of seven of them on felony charges an unjust effort to suppress free speech through "fear and intimidation."

The seven Occupy protesters were indicted Tuesday by a Harris County grand jury stemming from their Dec. 12 arrests during their attempts to block the access road to the Port of Houston, the Houston Chronicle reported.

They were charged with using a "criminal instrument" -- plastic pipe with which they locked arms.

A judge had dismissed the charges last week, saying the PVC pipe used to keep police from handcuffing protesters was not a criminal instrument.

In a news release, Occupy Houston members called the indictment unjust, and urged city officials and law enforcement to stop a "campaign to suppress the free speech of local citizens through fear and intimidation tactics, legal and otherwise."

"These folks are not criminals," said Daphne Silverman, a lawyer representing one of the protesters pro-bono through the Houston chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. "They are out there trying to present a better picture of the world. They have no criminal intent."

Her client, a 21-year-old man, remained in jail on $2,000 bond.

The Chronicle said attempts to reach the Harris County District Attorney's office were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Occupy protesters disrupted an annual memorial Tuesday night for homeless people who had died on the city's streets in the past year.

The protesters were upset police in riot gear had removed shanties from Civic Center park, across from the site of Tuesday's candlelight vigil, on Monday night and arrested four people, including two on arson charges for allegedly setting shanties and other items on fire as officers approached.

As Mayor Michael Hancock prepared to speak at the 22nd annual Homeless Persons' Memorial Vigil, protesters shouted, among other things, "fascist" and "criminal."

Hancock pleaded for 3 minutes with protesters to show respect for the 136 men and women whose names were called and for family members.

Some of those who turned out for the vigil criticized Occupy protesters who disrupted it.

"It's disgraceful," said Cynthia Ingram, who traveled from Buffalo, N.Y., for the event to honor a cousin on the list. "This isn't about their political agenda; it's about our family, some sympathy and showing just a little bit of respect for the dead. I am so angry right now."

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