Occupy LA Arrestees Told They Can Avoid Trial by Paying a Private Company for Free-Speech Lessons

Each city is handling its occupiers -- those arrested, and not -- quite differently. But as far as I know, Los Angeles is the first city to suggest that occupiers need actual lessons in free speech.

The LA Times reports that prosecutors have offered arrested occupiers a deal: if the protesters want to avoid a court trial, they can pay $355 to a private company to participate in free-speech classes.

Los Angeles Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said the city won't press charges against protesters who complete the educational program offered by American Justice Associates.

He said the program, which may include lectures by attorneys and retired judges, is being offered to people with no other criminal history and who were arrested on low-level misdemeanor offenses, such as failure to disperse....

Carter said the free-speech class will save the city money and teach protesters the nuances of the law.

"The 1st Amendment is not absolute," he said, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled government can regulate when, where and how free speech can be exercised.

An attorney for the Occupy LA protesters is calling bullshit on the deal:

[A] civil rights attorney who has worked closely with the protesters called the class "patronizing," and said the demonstrators who were arrested are the last people needing free-speech training.

"There they were exercising their 1st Amendment, their lawful right to protest nonviolently," said attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker.

Also, it's ironic that a group of anti-capitalist protesters is being asked to pay a private company to receive any sort of "education."

Roughly 350 people have been arrested at Occupy LA so far, including six last weekend.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at December 22, 2011, 4:52am

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