And in the end, they were free.
“We had a unanimous verdict from six-person jury,” Liam Wright, one of the so-called “Chase 5,” jubilantly reported from the steps of Seattle Municipal Court on Thursday evening, marking the end of the first degree criminal trespass charges that have been pending since Occupy Seattle’s November 2 demonstration that forced the closure of Chase Bank branch. The fate of Wright, Danielle Simmons, Sarah Svobodny, Hudson William-Eynon and Michael Stevens was unanimously decided by a six-member jury that deliberated for five and a half hours after three days of testimony.
“We shut down a bank for the entire day,” Wright recounted. “People dove under the police van to keep us from going to jail. We chained ourselves together inside. We admitted this and then got a non-guilty verdict. Yeah.
“I am in shock,” Simmons said after the verdict was read. “The jury decided that our actions were justified and whether this is because they thought it was somehow lawful or just the right thing to do, something is changing, and I think it’s beautiful.”
“Every aspect of the action has gone far beyond what was expected,” Wright added, including the demonstration in question, when the crowd cheering on the Chase Bank occupiers then marched to a nearby Sheraton Hotel, where JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was giving a speech. The demonstration cut his speech short.
To obtain a guilty verdict, the prosecution would have had to prove that the defendants were aware that they were trespassing and that this is illegal. The defense went right for the jugular, arguing that Chase essentially has Seattle PD on its payroll because of the bank’s parasitic and reciprocal financial relationship to local governments.
“You can’t say what is private and public property in this case,” Wright said, because JPMorgan Chase received $94.7 billion in bailout funds, the largest given to any bank.
“I made an open appeal to the jury,” Wright said. “‘People feel that they have no power in society, and I’m sure you can understand this.’ Most people feel like they don’t have power, and it’s true. We wanted to make clear to everyone that we don’t want a world defined by banks, we don’t want to live under them. We want to be human beings living together, free from the dead weight of financial profiteering.”
As he left court, Wright called a mic-check: “Thank you all so much, this is amazing – incomprehensible! We shut down the bank and we got away with it.”
JPMorgan Chase currently has $20 billion in foreclosures on its books. The bank had a hand in the worst of the subprime lending excesses, providing financing to the nation’s two largest subprime lenders, Countrywide and Ameriquest. This financing provided the companies with the capital they needed to originate subprime mortgages.
“They’ve been strengthened from this crisis,” Wright said, adding that none of the CEOs who caused the financial meltdown has been prosecuted, yet they continue to collude with government officials.
“And here we were, on trial, for trying to put a stop to that,” he said.