A Seattle judge has ruled 16 activists were not trespassing after they occupied a vacant Capitol Hill building in December. Some 200 activists occupied the Union Cultural Center at 10th and Union for about 10 hours before they were forced out in a pre-dawn SWAT raid by Seattle police.
According to court records, Judge Judith Hightower ruled the building was abandoned, incapable of being trespassed. The building had been empty for more than a year and was scheduled for demolition two weeks after the activists moved in.
Hightower dismissed the trial May 24; it was slated to start this week. The 107-year-old building had since been demolished to make way for new mixed-use development.
Kimberly Mills, spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office, tells CHS the judge denied the prosecutor’s request to reconsider the ruling.
Braden Pence, who represented some of the UCC 16, says the ruling calls into question how and why Occupy crackdowns were carried out.
“Politically, there’s pressure to keep things the way they are,” Pence said. “Occupy was theoretically about transformative change and addressing institutional inequality, so there was a bias against it and that was evident in the media coverage and the prosecution.”
Pence said he’s frustrated that media coverage has disappeared now that some protestors are being vindicated in their actions.
The dismissal comes on the heals of the Chase 5 being found not guilty in their occupation of Chase Bank’s Broadway brach. Pence, who left his clerk post with a Seattle judge to represent Occupy activists, also served as co-counsel for the Chase 5.
Pence says that while some Occupy activists engaged in illegal activity, it’s important to note how many cases are being dropped.
“The legal system is a reflection of a community and I think seattle is a liberal community and one that embraces political discourse,” he says. “Our society likes individual freedom and political speech. If this case was in a different part of the country, we could have very different results.”
Babylonia Aivaz was one of the UCC 16. You’ll remember she garnered national media attention after holding a “gay-wedding” with the UCC building last year. She says she was indifferent about the dismissal.
|“I just felt in the core of my being that what was happening in there was true justice.”
“Honestly, it didn’t make a difference. Either way I knew we were right and we were going to win … I knew I live with pure intentions in this world, I have no intention for harm, only positive social change.”
Aivaz said what she remembers most about the night in December is the positive energy and good nature of the participants. She says the occupiers immediately got to work, cleaning and removing debris in order to hold a meeting to discuss how to best use the space for the community.
“I just felt in the core of my being that what was happening in there was true justice,” she said. “I would have taken a bullet for what we were doing that night.”
Aivaz tells CHS she’s hard at work planning her next wedding to Yessler Terrace. The 71-year-old public housing development is slated for a massive overhaul.
According to occupyseattle.org, the movement is still alive and kicking with a slew of summer events planned. Seattle activists are organizing a cross-country Occupy caravan with other west coast cities to end in Philadelphia July 4th. A free music, arts, and politics festival, dubbed Everything for Everyone Festival, is slated for August 11-12.