A jury in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas returned not guilty verdicts yesterday for all twelve defendants arrested during the course of an Occupy Philly political demonstration at a Wells Fargo bank branch on November 18, 2011. KRMF partner Jonathan Feinberg joined with six other Philadelphia lawyers — Paul Hetznecker, Mike Lee, Leo Mulvihill, Marni Snyder, Michael Coard and Lawrence Krasner — to represent the defendants.
The verdict represents a significant victory for the exercise of First Amendment rights to engage in political expression. The protestors charged in the case conducted their demonstration to bring public attention to Wells Fargo’s unfair and racially discriminatory lending practices and to Wells Fargo’s having entered into one-sided loan deals with the Philadelphia School District which resulted in the School District losing tens of millions of dollars. Although the prosecution argued to the jury that First Amendment rights are limited when they are exercised on private property, the jury’s verdict recognizes that, in a case like this one, political expression calling attention to important social issues is justifiable.
Unsurprisingly, the case has received wide media attention. A few relevant sites for more information on the case are:
- Video of the demonstration
- Information on Wells Fargo’s controversial lending practices
- Press release from the defendants
- Philadelphia Inquirer article on the verdict