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Occupy Denver: Mercer Lewis, first arrestee to face jury trial, is acquitted

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After months of waiting and sifting through discovery, Mercer Lewis, 21, became the first Occupy Denver activist to take his case in front of a jury yesterday. After the trial, Lewis, who was found not guilty on the charge of obstructing a street or passageway, had a great deal to say about the jury's decision and its implications for his peers. But first, he had a request. "First, have you seen the moon? Go outside and look at it."

On November 12, police arrested Lewis for obstruction after an altercation that found protesters abandoning Civic Center Park to march down the 16th Street Mall. Approximately 100 protesters and 200 police officers took part in the night's events, which ended with nineteen arrests. (Four of the arrestees have since pleaded guilty.) At around 6:45 p.m., police took Lewis into custody at the northwest corner of 14th and Larimer.

In the weeks since then, several cases have been scheduled to be the first to go to trial, only to be continued to later dates. Although Lewis is the first to go to court, he is not the first to have reached a result: At least twenty protesters have entered guilty pleas to a variety of charges beginning with the group's first eviction on October 14. (He is also not the first to be free of charges: One case was mysteriously lost.)

Lewis, known to fellow occupiers as "Cottonwood," was represented in court by Jessica Jackson, who took on his case pro bono as part of the Colorado Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild's push to guarantee free legal service. In court yesterday, she stressed Lewis's role as an individual who must be distinguished from the tide of the larger Occupy Wall Street movement.

In this video, Lewis can be seen performing at an Occupy Denver concert.

"They gave us a lot of information in the discovery, but there was only one video presented and we both used it," Lewis says. The video captured Lewis speaking over police officers in an attempt to explain himself as they read his charges on camera. Although the prosecution's discovery included extensive video resources from HALO cameras and footage of altercations, this evidence did not appear in court.

According to Lewis, however, anti-Occupy sentiments did. "They kept trying to bring up that Occupy is this bad movement of angry people with no direction, and they like to erect tents.," Lewis says. "They kept saying 'erect tents.'" The night of Lewis's arrest, the evening's original altercation began with the erection of three tents, which are not connected to his charge. Instead, city attorneys argued that Lewis ignored legal crosswalks and danced in front of oncoming traffic.

This is Lewis's first criminal charge. During court, Lewis and fellow occupiers spent their quarter-hour wait for a verdict smoking tobacco in a circle outside, after which he says the declaration felt like a collective victory.

"That was one of the instances where you actually rely on your fellow people in this country, and I really wasn't that surprised," Lewis says. In the meantime, he is working toward the release of his first album, much of which is inspired by his time as an activist and songwriter at Occupy Denver. "I think what it means for the rest of us is that spring is here. It eventually has nothing to do with just me, but that this is the next phase in this movement."

More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver update: 100-plus arrests, more charges added, one case misplaced."


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22 comments
Robert Chase
Robert Chase

If words like "borne" and "obtrude" are too big for most readers, the fault does not lie with me.  My critics' cowardice in posting anonymous personal attacks is matched by their failure or inability to answer the many substantive arguments I have laid out here.  Do these recent attacks reflect a desire on the part of the orgainzers of the 4/20 Rally to try to discredit me in the wake of my criticism of Miguel, his misuse of the Rally, and his daft opposition to Amendment 64?  I strongly suspect so, but since they are without intellectual content, there is not much purpose served in responding.

My detractors say nothing about the campaign to suppress civil rights in Denver by means of false criminal charges -- perhaps they are partisans for the criminals in the DPD and District Atttorney's office rather than Miguel's sycophants, but knowing how numerous the latter group is and how defensive Miguel is of his little fief, I suspect them.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Mercer, congratulations!  I apologize for not attending your trial.  I got distracted by BS here, which is no excuse.  I hope that as many of these wrongful arrests as possible are documented well enough that those falsely arrested are able to sue the criminal DPD successfully.  In Denver, there is no check whatsoever on that gang and their co-conspirator Mitch Morrissey in the filing of false criminal charges to attempt to suppress the civil rights of protesters, but the commission of multiple Federal felonies under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not go entirely unnoticed, and we can hope that someday their outrageous criminal conduct will sent them to Federal prison where they belong.

MrEFQ
MrEFQ

 You got distracted responding to the comment section on a news site? Bwhahahahahahahaahahahaaaaaaaa

That is the most pathetic thing I have ever read. Get a life, loser.

Cory
Cory

 I second that!  Maybe if everyone who was wrongfully arrested sues DPD for the wrongful arrests, maybe, just maybe, the thugs will get a clue.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I may be guilty of a little bombast from time to time, but I am not egomaniacal or narcissistic (and that's a bit redundant anyway) -- back to thesaurus.com with you!

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I admit my mistakes.  It was appropriate to counter all the disinformation appearing about 4/20 and Amendment 64, but I made a commitment which I should have kept. None of your posts have borne on the issues being discussed -- you probably lack enough knowledge of the subjects under consideration to make a relevant comment, but are here only to denigrate me. Pathetic!

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

If strong evidence emerges of the fact that this a deliberate program (i.e that false criminal charges have been filed for the purpose of suppressing protester's civil rights), Morrissey or DPD supervisors should be convicted of Federal felonies -- just one such case would make a much larger dent in the criminal culture pervading Denver's government than a dozen settlements of victims' lawsuits!

Were John Walsh concerned about the well-being of Denver's children (or of anyone else who lives here) he would suspend his harassment of MMCs to focus on the deliberate and systematic abuse of the Law to suppress dissent.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

obtrude (ob|trude) 

Pronunciation: /əbˈtruːd/ verb [no object] become noticeable in an unwelcome or intrusive way

Perhaps I should not use it with a direct object -- 1/2 point to anonymous haters disinterested in addressing the ongoing criminal campaign by DPD!

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

A Federal felony is a felonious offense under Federal law -- as if that needed explanation or defense!

MrEFQ
MrEFQ

 There goes poor wittle Robby, crying again.

Guest
Guest

Another word for Robert to learn, pseudo-intellectual: One who attempts to flex intellect that does not exist within his or her own mind.

Big Fan of Robert
Big Fan of Robert

Robert also misuses "obtrude." Take a class, ass clown. Here's the joke about Robert that Robert doesn't get: When you make yourself a laughable opponent you help the other side, because all arguments against them become tangentially associated with a moron. Keep up the good work, Robert. Here's another big word you should look up: addlepated. Look it up while you're standing in front of the mirror.

Robert Chase is an Idiot
Robert Chase is an Idiot

Robert, weren't you Westword's Troll of the Year last year? And you're calling someone else a troll? Rich. Also, you lack enough knowledge about what the word borne means. It doesn't make you look smarter to use big words if it's clear to smart people that you don't know what you're talking about. "Federal felonies"? No such thing. There are felonies and federal offenses. Smoke another bowl, Robert. It makes you seem smarter ... to Robert.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Then you are a self-declared idiot and troll and I can confidently so assert whenever you obtrude yourself into the conversation.

MrEFQ
MrEFQ

Oh I didn't even read this article. Hell, I didn't even read the majority of your post.

I just saw something so funny that I had to comment. That would be how utterly pathetic you are.

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