San Diego

City Attorney Files Charges Against ‘Free Our Future Now' Protesters

Ten protesters were arrested in July after they rappelled from the roof of the Westin Hotel and hung a banner protesting the Trump Administration's immigration policy

The City Attorney’s office confirmed criminal charges have been filed against 10 demonstrators arrested in July at a “Free Our Future” protest in downtown San Diego.

A spokeswoman confirmed the City Attorney filed misdemeanor trespassing charges Monday against all the defendants.

During the rally, the group draped a banner from the side of the Westin hotel that read “Free Our Families Now” to speak out against President Donald Trump and his administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policies.  

Police said the group illegally went onto the roof of the Westin and some of them rappelled down the side of the building to display the banner. Others in the group blocked police from accessing the others by blocking a stairwell to the roof.

“All 10 defendants entered the Westin with the intent of trespassing on Westin property, blocking people from going on to their roof, and rappelling off the side of their building without permission,” said Director of Communications Hilary Nemchik.

Five defendants went to the roof. Three defendants appeared to be "spotting" the two defendants who rappelled off the side of the hotel, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Five other defendants blocked and delayed hotel and police from accessing the roof, some by chaining themselves inside a stairwell, according to the City Attorney’s office.

Those five defendants also face an additional misdemeanor charge of “resisting, obstructing or delaying a police officer,” according to her office.   

A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office confirmed nearly all of those arrested July 2 were wearing shirts that read: “ABOLISH POL(I.C.E.) FREE ALL PEOPLE FROM CAGES!” 

Mijente, one of the groups that organize the protest events, called for all charges against protesters to be dropped.

“The attacks our communities are facing from the Trump administration require that we fight back in every way, sometimes putting our bodies on the line for what we believe is right,” said Mijente Director Marisa Franco.

City Attorney Mara W. Elliot released a statement explaining her decision to follow through with filing charges against the protesters.

“I sympathize with the protesters’ message that families should not be torn apart, but do not condone their tactics,” Elliott said. “Their actions required a robust public safety response. Police officers were pulled from our streets and placed in a potentially dangerous situation. So were hotel security personnel and members of the public. Thousands peacefully protested in San Diego this summer without breaking laws or putting others in harm’s way. These 10 made a different choice, and will be held accountable.”

During the rally, other demonstrators temporarily locked arms and blocked the entrance of the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building on Broadway. The demonstrators who locked arms in front of the federal building eventually moved before they were arrested.

“These are places where we have seen the criminalization of our community,” said Mijente member Mara Mora, about why the group chose the federal building to protest.

The group began at Chicano Park where hundreds gathered before marching downtown calling for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion peacefully without interference,” a spokeswoman for ICE responded.

Once the crowd reached downtown, the activists hung the sign from the Westin building while the crowd cheered.

Mijente organized a legal fund to help with the defense of those arrested, which can be found here.

NBC 7 obtained the names of the defendants: Ethan Buckner, Katherine Wines, Brianna Gibson, Avery Sinclair, Brittany Baker, Kevin Pang, Jaque Fragua, Nora Leccese, Roberta Capobianco and Nora Rasman.

None of the defendants live in San Diego.

A spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s office said the defendants do not need to attend their arraignment, but will need to appear for trial.

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