Video Evidence Clears Activist In Occupy's First Protest Jury Trial

Activist and community organizer, Michael Premo was found not guilty on all charges on Thursday in the first jury trial stemming from an Occupy Wall Street protest. Video evidence presented in Premo's defense contradicted claims by police and prosecutors.


The events in this video happened December 17th, 2011, as protesters, including clergy members, attempted to Occupy the unused, fenced off section of Duarte Square on the corner of Canal Street and 6th Avenue in New York City on the three-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.

Activist and community organizer Michael Premo was found not guilty on all charges on Thursday in the first jury trial stemming from an Occupy Wall Street protest. Video evidence presented in Premo's defense contradicted claims by police and prosecutors.

Premo, who more recently has been an important figure in Occupy Sandy efforts, was arrested on December 17, 2011 during a protest in lower Manhattan when Occupy protesters attempted to start a new occupation in an empty lot on Duarte Square.

Village Voice:

In the police version of events, Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer's bone. That's the story prosecutors told in Premo's trial, and it's the general story his arresting officer testified to under oath as well.

But Premo, facing felony charges of assaulting an officer, maintained his innocence. His lawyers, Meghan Maurus and Rebecca Heinegg, set out to find video evidence to contradict it. Prosecutors told them that police TARU units, who filmed virtually every moment of Occupy street protests, didn't have any footage of the entire incident. But Maurus knew from video evidence she had received while representing another defendant arrested that day that there was at least one TARU officer with relevant footage. Reviewing video shot by a citizen-journalist livestreamer during Premo's arrest, she learned that a Democracy Now cameraman was right in the middle of the fray, and when she tracked him down, he showed her a video that so perfectly suited her needs it brought a tear to her eye.

For one thing, the video prominently shows a TARU cop named Bosco, holding up his camera, which is on, and pointing at the action around the kettle. When Premo's lawyers subpoenaed Bosco, they were told he was on a secret mission at "an undisclosed location," and couldn't respond to the subpoena. Judge Robert Mandelbaum didn't accept that, and Bosco ultimately had to testify, though he claimed, straining credibility, that though the camera is clearly on and he can be seen in the video pointing it as though to frame a shot, he didn't actually shoot any video that evening.

Even more importantly, the Democracy Now video also flipped the police version of events on its head. Far from showing Premo tackling a police officer, it shows cops tackling him as he attempted to get back on his feet.

After watching the video, the jury deliberated for several hours before returning a verdict of not guilty on all counts.

One of Premo's lawyers, Meghan Maurus, said after the trial that his case highlighted the importance of having the press, livestreamers and professional video journalists present during demonstrations, and that "without that evidence, this would have been a very different case."

"The biggest thing for me coming out of this," Premo told the Voice, "is not being discouraged by the attempts of New York City to quell dissent and prevent us from expressing our constitutional rights."

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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