Some media outlets have reported that protesters were arrested outside the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia tonight.
But according to the Philadelphia Police Department, no activists have been arrested so far — in all of Philly. And there’s a reason for that.
Police say 54 people were given code violation notices (a/k/a $50 tickets) for disorderly conduct Monday outside the convention at Wells Fargo Center. No one was arrested Sunday or Monday as of 6:44 p.m., a police spokesperson told Philly Mag.
Activists may take issue with the police department’s assertion that it hasn’t arrested anyone, however, since officers did restrain protesters who hopped a fence outside of the DNC. Indeed, Michael Lee, the executive director of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, said some protesters who were given citations are currently being held at a middle school in South Philly.
“If you are not free to leave, then you are under arrest,” Lee said. “People are not accused of violating the crimes code, but they are handcuffed and transported before being given a citation.”
On the other hand, Jody Dodd of the Up Against the Law Legal Collective said the protesters who hopped the fence were not arrested, but detained and cited.
Regardless, it seems clear that protesters have only received tickets — not criminal charges — so far. And that’s no accident. Anticipating large numbers of protests at the DNC, Mayor Jim Kenney proposed a bill decriminalizing disorderly conduct and other nuisance offenses, such as public drunkenness, failure to disperse, and obstructing a public passage. City Council passed the legislation last month. The policy just wasn’t for this one-time event, though: It’s also part of Philadelphia’s plan to reduce its prison population by one-third.
Protesters climbing over the fence one by one to get arrested. It's so orderly, the police tell them when to go. pic.twitter.com/ucAAgaPOdj
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) July 25, 2016
So, if all goes according to plan, no protesters should be charged for disorderly conduct this week. That’s not a guarantee, of course. Philadelphia decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014, and (some) arrests continue.
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