April 12, Kew Gardens, Queens -- C. Clark Kissinger & Miles Solay went to court in Queens NY, ready to be tried on charges from the October 2015 protest to #ShutDownRikers. Their attorney Kenneth Gilbert and about 20 supporters came in united, sporting #ShutDownRikers buttons.
The assistant district attorneys repeated their "offer" that Clark and Miles plead guilty to obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct to avoid being sentenced to jail. They refused to plead to serious criminal charges for participating in a non-violent political protest, as is their right.
Prosecutors announced they would try each defendant separately. But Mr. Gilbert objected, filing a motion that they should be tried together, as they were part of the same voluntary political action. The prosecution has until May 3 to answer that motion. Another trial date was set for July 12.
The court was packed today. Long lines at security were held up when guards began searching the #ShutDownRikers supporters extra carefully for anything that communicated our ideas, confiscating printed material we carried, including two palm cards which were to be used as evidence for the defense.
We didn't bring enough #ShutDownRikers buttons, but passed along all we had to people who agreed with the slogan, including attorneys. When we came into court together, and especially when we rose up together, and left the court, people asked, "What is going on? What's this case about?"
Lawyers thanked us for coming, and for protesting Rikers. One said, yes, Rikers is bad, but you can't blame the guards, because they are trained to act as they do. He has a point -- it's the systematic abuse and brutality that must be stopped. But why aren't the guards who beat and mistreat prisoners almost ever disciplined, while Miles & Clark are facing jail time?
We learned today about the rich basis there is to put Rikers on trial, politically, during the future trial. Lots of people know the reality of Rikers as prisoners or attorneys, and want to see it stopped.
And raising your voice helps. We delivered a letter with more than 700 signatures to the District Attorney's office, asking for the charges to be dropped. The authorities may ignore the demand, but they are hearing it. An assistant D.A. was overheard complaining that the "protesters" were calling her office to say the charges on Miles & Clark should be dropped, and she was having a hard time getting her work done. Sign the Petition Here!