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'Occupy' Protesters Acquitted

Julie Rose
Jason Dow, Laura Brooks and Scottie Wingfield outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse following their acquital. Photo: Julie

Three Occupy Charlotte protesters were acquitted Thursday of charges they resisted arrest during a police eviction of their encampment at old City Hall in January.

Mecklenburg County Judge John Totten ruled that Laura Brooks, Scottie Wingfield and Jason Dow were not in violation of a city ordinance that prohibits camping on city property, because the tent they were arrested in was not being used for sleeping or storing personal belongings.

"This was a Occupy Charlotte art studio tent that was set up for the express purpose of creating art, so we didn't think this tent was in violation of the ordinances," said Brooks after the trial Thursday afternoon. "We didn't think we should be arrested for being in this tent and fortunately, the judicial system backed us up."

The Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance in January aimed at dismantling a months-long Occupy encampment at 600 E. Trade Street. Police removed all but one tent on the site because it was being used to distribute information and brochures. Judge Totten said the "art tent" fell into the same category and should not have been removed by police.

The ruling could embolden protesters looking to set up empty tents as a "symbolic occupation" during the Democratic National Convention. Some have already signaled their intent to defy the ordinance and camp in Frazier Park Uptown.