Prosecutors aim new weapon at Occupy activists: lynching allegation

MSNBC reports: Sergio Ballesteros, 30, has been involved in Occupy LA since the movement had its California launch in October. But this week, his activism took an abrupt turn when he was arrested on a felony charge — lynching.

Under the California penal code, lynching is “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer,” where “riot” is defined as two or more people threatening violence or disturbing the peace. The original purpose of the legal code section 405a was to protect defendants in police custody from vigilante mobs — especially black defendants from racist groups.

Whether its use in this case will be upheld by California’s courts is uncertain. But the felony charge — which carries a potential four-year prison sentence — is the kind of accusation that can change the landscape for would-be demonstrators.

“Felonies really heighten the stakes for the protesters,” said Baher Azmy, legal director at Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. “I think in situations where there are mass demonstrations and a confrontation between protesters and police, one always has to be on the lookout for exaggerated interpretations of legal rules that attempt to punish or squelch the protesters.”

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1 thought on “Prosecutors aim new weapon at Occupy activists: lynching allegation

  1. Christopher Hoare

    Recent events indicate that peaceful protestors using their own bodies as a weapon against a police state cannot achieve anything (perhaps not even survive (Syria)) unless they have one powerful ally. In Egypt, during the first Arab Spring actions that ally (or allies) were lower echlon officers and even enlisted soldiers in the army, who refused to obey orders to attack the protestors.

    The Egyptian military council has clearly been shuffling the deck to keep the ‘good’ soldiers away in barracks while their hand picked goon squads attack protestors to prevent any further successes from the ‘street’. In the case of #Occupy in the US—where is the powerful ally who can swing the tide of protest enough to secure any social gains? There isn’t one. The administration, the military, the police, the Congress, the judiciary, and the majority of political party hacks are all against them.

    You cannot strain the eggs through the shell to make an omelet.

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