NEW YORK — More than 50 people arrested at an Occupy Wall Street march rejected offers Thursday to get disorderly-conduct cases dismissed by staying out of trouble for six months, saying they wanted trials on what some called unjustified arrests.
Some 79 demonstrators had court dates Thursday stemming from a Sept. 24 march, which came about a week into the protest and helped draw national attention to it and inspire similar demonstrations elsewhere.
Prosecutors said the activists blocked traffic and prevented pedestrians from getting by as the demonstrators marched near Manhattan's Union Square.
But many protesters said they stayed on the sidewalk, took care to leave a path for others to get through and followed police instructions as officers corralled them behind orange netting used to control crowds.
"We clearly were very peaceful, and there was no reason for it," said Tile Wolfe, 19, a nonprofit organization staffer who turned down the adjournment-and-dismissal offer. "I was arrested on a sidewalk, standing with peace signs in the air, so it was kind of absurd."
She and 54 others who turned down the offer — officially called an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal — were released without bail until a Jan. 9 court date. A lawyer who represented many of them, Martin R. Stolar, said the cases should be dismissed because of "the ambiguity of the police orders that everybody received."
Nine demonstrators accepted the offer in a busy but orderly courtroom, where some wore shirts and buttons with such messages as "we will not be silent." A court officer reminded the crowd to keep quiet, though, after the audience broke out in applause when the first case called was dismissed immediately. The defendant in that case, John Farley, was at the march working in his capacity as an editor for a public television station's website and was wearing a press credential, prosecutors said.
About 14 of the 79 didn't show up for court. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross issued arrest warrants but stayed them — for now — and set Jan. 9 court dates for them.
While many of the arrested demonstrators were in their 20s and teens, there were a few older activists. Ann Shirazi, 66, a former social worker who has been arrested while protesting before, was among those who turned down an adjournment-and-dismissal offer.Comment on this story
"I would never take" one, out of concern about how a potential future arrest can affect such cases, she said.
All those arrested face charges of disorderly conduct, a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail. Two also face more serious misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, which carries the potential for up to a year in jail. They weren't given dismissal offers, which Manhattan prosecutors commonly make to people with first-time disorderly conduct arrests at demonstrations.
"The Manhattan District Attorney's Office fully supports every person's First Amendment right to peacefully demonstrate. At the same time, we are charged with enforcing violations of the law," office spokeswoman Erin Duggan said.
The demonstrators had been released from police stations after their arrests.