Jury selection was underway at the Seattle Municipal Courthouse Tuesday morning as final motions were hammered out in the trial proceedings for the Broadway Chase 5.
Danielle Simmons, Sarah Svobodny, Douglas Van, Michael Stevens, and Hudson Williams-Eynon face charges of criminal trespass in the case stemming from a November protest inside Broadway at Thomas’s oft-targeted Chase outlet that came five days into Occupy Seattle’s stay on Capitol Hill and at the height of the movements early efforts in Seattle. The five entered the bank and chained themselves together as a march of supporters arrived outside the bank. As the group was arrested and taken into custody, one of last fall’s more violent melees between SPD and Occupy protesters broke out.
Judge Edward McKenna heard motions on key elements as the defense and prosecution sought to establish ground rules for how the jury trial would proceed. Law school nerds may be especially interested to note that McKenna denied a motion to allow a “necessity defense” argument from lawyers for the 5, ruling that grounds for such a defense require that there be no legal alternatives to a defendant’s actions.
“This isn’t a trial of Chase Bank,” defense attorney Braden Pence told the courtroom. But Pence said Chase’s actions had left the group with no choice but to employ civil disobedience. McKenna disagreed but will allow the defendants to mount part of their defense on a free speech argument. As part of that, defense lawyers said Chase’s Broadway location should be considered public property because of the “billions in subsidies” it has received and that the Broadway outlet, especially, is known as a center for speech after multiple protests and acts of vandalism at the location over the years. It seems unlikely that Chase would agree on that point.
Also at issue will be exactly why the Chase outlet shut down that day. Was it the act of five people chaining themselves together inside the bank or concerns about the protest march that arrived outside the building? Meanwhile, the defense said it will present evidence that shows the defendants planned “intentional actions” that were as safe as possible.
The misdemeanor charges could results in sentences of up to one year and fines up to $5,000. But the trial has added weight as Occupy Seattle continues its protest efforts. A rally for the defendants is planned for the lunch recess and a march and protests at Chase banks across the Seattle are being planned, organizers say.