Members of Occupy San Francisco facing criminal charges related to the takeover of two vacant buildings are being urged by fellow activists to occupy the court system by rejecting any plea deals from prosecutors.
Eight protesters now face misdemeanor charges for vandalism or trespassing in connection with the April 2 and May 2 takeovers of two Tenderloin buildings belonging to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
One other protester, 34-year-old Jesse Nesbitt, faces more serious charges for allegedly lobbing bricks from a rooftop onto protesters, injuring at least one person.
Some Occupiers say Nesbitt should be punished.
“I’m all for busting the guy on the roof,” longtime Occupy protester Jane Kennedy, 73, said Thursday at an ongoing protest in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco at 101 Market St.
But prosecutors should lay off the others, Kennedy said.
“We’re advocating for no deals,” said Robb Benson, an active Occupy SF member. He added that the movement must now “occupy the court system” for demonstrators facing charges.
“I think this should go to jury trial,” agreed protester Mike Zint, 45. “Let a jury decide.”
Of the dozens of people cited during the building takeovers, prosecutors said, those facing charges either committed more serious offenses or trespassed on both protest dates.
“While a majority of protesters are peaceful and law-abiding, we will hold those accountable who cross the line,” Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said Thursday.
The takeovers of 888 Turk St. and 930 Gough St. caused an estimated $25,000 in damage, said archdiocese spokesman George Wesolek.
The archdiocese wants to “let the judicial process run its course” in the case of those facing charges.
“We don’t have any kind of spirit of hatred for these people,” Wesolek said. “Many of their goals are similar to the goals that we have in terms of helping the homeless and others in these difficult economic times.”
The protesters “attacked and occupied a friend,” Wesolek added.
Prosecutors plan to file a motion to consolidate all cases except Nesbitt’s during a court hearing June 19, when four of the defendants are scheduled to set a jury trial date.
The question now is, how far will protesters take their “occupy the court system” stance?
“At this time, I have received no notice of any actions planned” at the Hall of Justice, Benson said.