After 50 supporters packed the courtroom, Hennepin County judges Monday dismissed riot charges against all four Occupy defendants. Each defendant accepted a plea deal to a misdemeanor that will not go on their record pending successful completion of community service and a year's probation.
On May 30, fifteen community supporters were arrested in a peaceful protest, many linking arms and sitting on the front stoop of the foreclosed Cruz family home. The Cruz family fell into foreclosure due to a bank error, and though their original lender was willing to work with them, Freddie Mac insisted on pursuing their eviction. Dozens of police came to evict the home, just one night after Mayor RT Rybak and City Attorney Susan Segal told Freddie Mac the city was not in the foreclosure business and they would have to secure the contested property themselves. Many of the protesters were then charged with third-degree riot, a violent crime.
"The use of the word 'riot' by prosecutors to describe the Occupy Homes demonstration of May 30th would be laughable if it were not an attempt to delegitimize the most successful efforts to keep Twin Cities victims of the foreclosure crisis in their homes," said Rachel E.B. Lang, attorney for the defense. "The City Attorney and Mayor RT Rybak are using the coercion of the criminal justice system for political purposes, while failing to help families whose homes are being taken by unscrupulous banks."
"I pled out to disorderly conduct knowing that the true disorder in this nation has been created by the uneven distribution of power and resources," said Catherine Salonek, one of the defendants. "We are looking forward to going on the legal offensive."
Occupy Homes MN is now exploring the possibility of legal action against the city for its treatment of Occupy protesters. "We will not be intimidated," said Catherine Salonek. "We shall not be moved."