Occupy Oakland activists accused the county's district attorney on Tuesday of abusing her power through "trumped-up prosecutions" in an effort to squash their movement.
Using a recent robbery and hate crime case charged against three protesters as an example, protesters and their attorneys said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is purposely prosecuting Occupy Oakland members for serious felonies even though their cases warrant, at most, misdemeanor charges.
"We would not be here if this wasn't about Occupy," said Joe Rogoway, an attorney representing Randolph Wilkins, 24, against a charge of second-degree robbery with a hate crime enhancement.
Wilkins, along with Michael Davis, 32, and Nneka Crawford, 23, were each charged with second-degree robbery and a hate crime in connection with a February confrontation the trio had with a woman on Piedmont Avenue.
According to the defendants' attorneys, the confrontation began when the woman yelled at the protesters who had gathered in front of an ice-cream store to plan a protest in front of a Wells Fargo Bank branch.
During the argument the protesters called the woman a "dyke" and the woman called the protesters a racial slur, the attorneys said. The woman denies using a racial slur.
When police arrived, the woman said her wallet had been stolen.
Police never recovered the wallet, and the defendants' attorneys said the woman admitted during a preliminary hearing
Nevertheless, an Alameda County judge ruled there was enough evidence in the case to move it toward a jury trial, and all three defendants were arraigned Tuesday.
At a news conference after the arraignment, protesters and attorneys said the case against the self-named "Ice Cream 3" was one of several examples of O'Malley's decision to aggressively prosecute Occupy Oakland members.
Other examples they cited were numerous stay-away orders O'Malley's office has successfully placed on other Occupy Oakland protesters who were arrested.
"It's a very heavy-handed approach that does not improve the lives of residents," said Yolanda Huang, an attorney representing Davis. "They've invested a huge amount of resources to prosecute at a time when crime is rising and court resources are limited."
Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for O'Malley's office, said the District Attorney's Office only prosecutes cases based on the evidence presented and denied that charges were "trumped-up" against members of the Occupy movement.
"We charged what we thought was appropriate," she said about the robbery and hate crime case. "We made the charging decision based on the evidence we have."
Drenick also pointed to the district attorney's decision Monday to drop stay-away orders against four UC Berkeley Occupy protesters as an example of how evidence drives prosecution, not politics.
In that case, Drenick said, the four defendants had not violated the stay-away order or any law, so as a result the office asked for the stay-away order to be lifted.