International Action Center
39 West 14 Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
(212) 633-6646 fax: (212) 633-2889
email: iacenter@iacenter.org
web: www.iacenter.org

September 25, 2000, 2:30 pm


IAC Co-Director acquitted in Washington DC trial in aftermath of April 15 police preventive detention action

In an important legal ruling, Brian Becker, a co-director of the International Action Center (IAC), was acquitted of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia today. Becker faced 90 days in jail for a charge stemming from the mass police arrests of demonstrators on April 15, 2000.

Becker was defended by DC attorney Mark Goldstone. Goldstone, who represented many of the defendants stemming from the April 15-17 arrests, said to a group of supporters after court: "This was an important victory because the court recognized that what was at stake was the first amendment right to demonstrate.

This has national implications because it is precisely this right which we have seen was under attack in Seattle and at the demonstrations at Philadelphia and Los Angeles in front of the Republican and Democratic Conventions."

Becker was acquitted in a ruling by Associate Judge Harim Puig-Lugo of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Judge Puig-Lugo ruled that the government had failed to prove its case that the demonstrators on April 15 and Becker in particular had engaged in an "unlawful assembly." 678 people were arrested on April 15 when police illegally closed a whole downtown block in Washington DC and arrested demonstrators, tourists, shoppers and passers-by in what has been described as the largest act of preventive detention in recent decades in the United States.

The demonstration was called by the International Action Center to demand "Shut down the Prison-Industrial Complex" on the day prior to the planned demonstrations to "Shut down the IMF and World Bank" in Washington DC on April 16-17. "We were arrested in a planned act of preventive detention by the police," said Becker. "They wanted to put us in jail not because we were breaking a law but because they wanted to clear the streets prior to the scheduled April 16-17 meeting of that vultures' club that goes by the name of the IMF."

While many of the cases stemming from the April 15 demonstration were later dismissed by the government, the Washington DC district attorney proceeded with the trial against Becker, who is one of the named plantiffs in a massive class action law suit charging that the police and government conspired to violate the first and fourth amendment rights of demonstrators. "We believe they proceeded with this trial because they wanted to get a conviction to defend themselves against the class action law suit charging unlawful arrests for the more than 1,300 people arrested that weekend," charged Becker.

"The outcome of our Sept. 25 trial and the class-action lawsuit will have great importance in the legal battle to push back the forces of police repression," according to Becker. "We must use every avenue to defend our rights—in the courts and in the streets. "The limited democratic rights that exist in the United States were not a gift given to the people by the rich and powerful. These 'rights' were won through struggle and we intend to keep struggling," he said.

People who want to participate in the class action law suit defending the rights of those arrested on April 15-17, as a witness or a potential plantiff, should go to www.justiceonline.org/a16. The law suit is proceeding and information regarding witnesses and potential plantiffs is urgently requested.

International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
email: iacenter@iacenter.org
web: www.iacenter.org
phone: 212 633-6646 fax: 212 633-2889

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