judge acquits 28 of No-Camping Law charges: Philadelphia FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 3 Sep 1998 17:14:13 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.phillynews.com:80/daily_news/98/Sep/02/local/ACQT02.htm
FWD  Philadelphia Daily News -- September 2, 1998


     JUDGE FREES 28, CITES THE BOSTON TEA PARTY

     by Dave Racher, Daily News Staff Writer


A Municipal Court judge cited the Boston Tea Party yesterday in granting 28
homeless advocates a revolutionary decision.

Judge Eric L. Lilian acquitted the mostly young student protesters of
violating the city's curfew by camping out overnight at Love Park, across
from City Hall, on May 24 and 31.

The acquittal brought smiles to the defendants standing along the bar of
the court wearing black shirts with the words, "It's not a crime to be
homeless," and loud applause from the audience, including some homeless
people.

Before the start of the trial, Lilian quipped, "Is there some way I can get
one of those T-shirts?" Afterward, a woman wanted to give him one, but was
stopped by her lawyer.

Lilian said citizens have the right to protest "against grievances, and
sometimes that takes the form of civil disobedience," like the participants
in the Boston tea tax protest and "all the people we look up to the most."

Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Kelliher said the curfew law for Love
and Fairmount parks was enacted for "the safety and well-being of the
citizens of Philadelphia," and the defendants had clearly violated it by
being in the park between the banned hours of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Defendant, Shane Claiborn, 22, told Lilian that the sleep-outs were orderly
and intended to bring attention to the plight of the homeless.

"We prayed together, sang some songs and cleaned up the park, sometimes,"
Claiborn testified.

Another protester told Lilian that at the time, the group was opposing a
new law that bans sleeping on the sidewalks.

Defense lawyer L. Felipe Restrepo said the defendants were trying to
"effectuate some sort of change," and felt their action was justified.

Lilian said the question was whether the curfew law "meets the muster of
constitutionality." He added that "there is no question they broke the law."

"I do not think the question of constitutionality is before this court,"
countered Kelliher.

"The question of constitutionality is always before the court," replied Lilian.

"They didn't hurt anybody or cause a disturbance," added the judge. "They
weren't charged with smoking pot. I don't think they should be
criminalized. I find them not guilty."

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