'OccupyICE' defendants say they will reject plea deals
The protesters arrested during a month-long demonstration against a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in southwest Portland are pledging to take their cases to trial.
At least 15 adults and one minor associated with the #OccupyICE movement entered a plea of "not guilty" during preliminary proceedings in federal court on Friday, Sept. 7, organizers say.
The protesters — who have been accused of committing misdemeanor crimes such as failing to comply — say they won't accept a plea deal that involves admitting wrong-doing.
"The administration and ICE are the real criminals," said Effie Baum, a spokesperson who is not personally facing criminal charges. "It is our moral duty to stand up and take action when elected representatives are not doing so."
The Tribune attempted to speak with several defendants who had gathered for a vigil on Friday outside City Hall, but was told they are not commenting to media at this time on the advice of their lawyers.
The #OccupyICE movement began on June 17 in response to a decision by President Donald Trump to separate children from their parents when they were caught allegedly crossing the border without documentation. The policy was later rescinded, but some of the separated children have not yet been reunited with family members.
Resisters shut down all operations at the facility on Macadam Avenue for a time and continued to surround the site after it re-opened. City workers cleared the rag-tag camp after five weeks.
Mayor Ted Wheeler now faces his own battle with the facility's unionized workers, who say he put them in danger by ordering local police away.
Baum said a judge at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse appointed federal public defenders for all the defendants without legal representation. All trial dates have been set for Nov. 2.
"There is a very strong spirit of solidarity among all of the defendants," Baum said. "No one is illegal on stolen land."