More than 160 people arrested during Occupy Wall Street-related protests were in a Manhattan courthouse Wednesday to answer charges.
Most of them were among the more than 700 picked up in an Oct. 1 march that marked the biggest mass arrest of the New York protest so far. Hundreds of other protesters arrested on the bridge and during other Occupy demonstrations in the city have already been to court, but this week's numbers are some of the biggest.
Some wearing their Occupy Wall Street allegiance on buttons — and in one case, a hand-painted oxford shirt — lined hallways and an overflow courtroom in a Manhattan courthouse that handles low-level offenses. Many had been arrested on the bridge after police said protesters ignored warnings not to leave a pedestrian path and go onto the roadway.
The demonstrators were generally charged with disorderly conduct and blocking traffic, both violations. Many took a judge's offer Wednesday to get their cases dismissed if they avoid getting arrested again for six months.
That made sense to Mark Pruce, who'd gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to get to court from his home in rural Millerton, N.Y., about 100 miles and $45 in trains and subways away.
Like many others arrested, he said he hadn't heard any police warnings and thought officers were letting the demonstrators go onto the road. But the freelance graphic and web designer, 24, said it would be difficult for him to return to court repeatedly to fight the case.
Some others told Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross they wanted trials.
Amanda Geraci, 29, said it would be a pain to come back to court from her home in Philadelphia. But she turned down the dismissal deal, partly because she didn't like the condition of staying out of trouble for six months.
"I'm not going to have something over my head from a justice system I didn't do anything wrong against," she said after court.
Over the nearly three months since Occupy Wall Street began, New York City police have arrested more than 1,200 people in connection with the demonstration. Besides those arraigned Wednesday, about 170 more have court dates later this week.
They, too, will appear before Ross, a veteran of prominent protest cases. In 2006, he acquitted 18 members of an activist group called the Granny Peace Brigade of disorderly conduct charges stemming from an anti-Iraq War protest outside the Times Square military recruiting station. He said the evidence showed they hadn't blocked foot traffic or kept anyone from going in.