Several months ago, OpEdNews.com reporter/photographer Cheryl Biren, who was arrested while covering the protest at the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, had all charges against her dropped.
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Today, the six protesters Biren was photographing were found not-guilty by a judge in a trial in Philadelphia where police testified.
In a trial that lasted about 90 minutes, Attorney Paul Hetznecker successfully argued that the police did not have good cause and had exercised inappropriate "discretion" in selecting who to arrest. Those arrested had originally been charged with failure to disperse and criminal conspiracy.
From left to Right: Elaine Brower, Debra Sweet, Attorney Paul Hetznecker, Richard Marini, Joan Pleune, Beverly Rice and Sarah Wellington, Photo by Rob Kall
At the time of the protest, a counter-demonstration was being held within the Army Experience Center by bikers and organic compounds from the group Gathering of Eagles. They also protested and intermingled with the anti-AEC protesters, yet the police did not arrest any of them.
Rather, the police focused on people, several who had been arrested before, and at the time were awaiting trial. Eventually, the charges in the first arrest failed to produce a conviction. But Hetznecker's questioning made it clear that they were targeted while others were ignored. Apparently, having the Gathering of Eagles present, making noise, carrying signs, helped in today's ruling.
Ironically, perhaps in part due to the Bikers/Gathering of Eagles who were counter-protesting at the AEC, the anti-War, anti-AEC protesters were acquitted of all charges.
The reason for the protest was simple. The Army Experience Center, a recruitment center that offers free video gaming, lures in teens, many of whom are as young as 13-years-old. Some call this "war porn" or brainwashing.
Prior to this particular protest (there have been several others), veteran war journalist, Chris Hedges spoke in opposition to the AEC.
Later, after escorting protesters into the mall, the police indiscriminately counted down and told some of the protesters to leave. Then they arrested them, as the photo below shows. At trial today, it was demonstrated that the protesters were not blocking the flow of traffic in the mall and that no store owners had issued any complaints.
Additionally, it was found that the counter-protesters were heckling and chanting loudly yet were not directed to leave and were allowed to continue the rowdy behavior as the protesters were being handcuffed and arrested.
The person in the foreground is OEN Managing Editor Cheryl Biren photographing the arrests moments before she, herself, was arrested.
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