Ten climate change protesters arrested for blocking traffic last September near Wall Street were found not guilty March 5. New York City Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum ruled that the NYPD’s order to disperse violated the First Amendment.
Following the People’s Climate March, which drew upwards of 400,000 participants on September 21, several thousand people occupied lower Broadway the following day to highlight Wall Street’s central role in financing climate destruction. At day’s end, about 100 people — and one man dressed as a polar bear — were arrested for sitting in the street at the intersection of Broadway and Wall. Ten of the arrestees subsequently decided to fight their charges in court.
In his decision, Judge Robert Mandelbaum found that the NYPD’s order to disperse was unlawful, and that by ordering protesters to leave the entire Wall Street area, police violated protesters’ First Amendment right to carry their message directly to its intended recipients. While Judge Mandelbaum did not accept the defendants’ attempt to make a necessity defense, he did break new ground by taking judicial notice that climate change is happening, is a serious problem, requires immediate action and is caused by human activity.
“The importance of judicial notice is that the judge accepted climate change and the need to do something about it as a fact without the necessity of any evidentiary support or proof at trial,” said defense attorney Martin Stolar. “To the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.”
Stolar and fellow attorney Jonathan Wallace represented the defendants pro bono on behalf of the Mass Defense Committee of the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
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By The Indypendent Staff