USA: Seattle Dismisses 280 WTO-related Cases

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

Citing lack of evidence, the city attorney said Monday he was dropping about 280 cases against demonstrators who blocked the streets and demonstrated against the recent World Trade Organization meetings.

Mark Sidran said there was enough evidence to meet the standard of probable cause for arrest and charges, but there were questions whether prosecutors could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

''I think the police did the best they could under very difficult circumstances, but the context on the street is not the same as in a court,'' he said in a statement.

About 525 misdemeanor cases were filed, most charging failure to disperse or
interfering with pedestrians by blocking streets during the four-day international conference.

Anti-WTO protesters had vowed to stop the WTO delegates from attending meetings. They were generally successful on Nov. 30, the first day, prompting Mayor Paul Schell to order a crackdown by police and to call in the National Guard.

Some 210 cases of the 525 have so far been resolved by guilty pleas, diversions and dismissals, Sidran said. He said approximately 40 remaining misdemeanor cases would be prosecuted.

As many as 45,000 demonstrators took to the streets Nov. 30, linking arms and blocking intersections to try and shut down the WTO opening ceremonies.

The action took police by surprise, kept many WTO delegates and Clinton administration officials from attending the opening, and ultimately resulted in cancellation of the ceremony.

AMP Section Name:Trade Justice