|Supporters stand with Rev. Dexter (pictured at center) and Derek Ford (pictured to the left of Rev. Dexter) at their June 9 court appearance.|
The Syracuse Police Department has outrageously charged two political organizers and activists with protesting without a permit. Derek Ford, of the ANSWER Coalition, and Reverend Lemorris Dexter, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, both received court summons on May 30. The summons were in reference to a protest and march that took place on April 30 in solidarity with the Baltimore rebellion.
The march was organized by THE General Body, a militant student group at Syracuse University, and supported by the ANSWER Coalition and SCLC. The action began at SU and proceeded to downtown, stopping by the local police station and making its way to the Jerry Rescue monument, which was erected to commemorate a bold rescue of a fugitive slave in 1851.
Both Ford and Rev. Dexter appeared for an arraignment in City Court on June 9. They are charged with violating local ordinance 16-35(b), which states that “No persons, society or organization of any name or nature shall assemble, congregate, parade or march in or through any of the streets of the city without first securing a permit therefor in accordance with this section.” They both pled not guilty, and a pre-trial conference has been set for July 8 at 1:30 p.m.
This is a blatant campaign of intimidation against two outspoken leaders who each represent organizations that have consistently fought against police brutality in the city. This is evidenced by the fact that Ford and Rev. Dexter were the only ones charged with the violation, even though over 100 people participated in the march. Further, this is a rather obscure ordinance, and no activists or organizers in the city can recall anyone ever being charged with violating it in the past. Even the city clerk at the courthouse remarked that she had worked there over 15 years and had never heard of such an ordinance.
The Syracuse city and student community has mobilized to support Ford and Rev. Dexter, with several people showing up for their arraignment. We are asking all of our members and supporters to sign the petition to drop the charges against Ford and Rev. Dexter and to stay tuned for additional action alerts.
Read a report about the June 9 court appearance from The Daily Orange, the independent campus newspaper of Syracuse University: Solidarity march participants plead not guilty to violating permit law
What you can do
1. Pack the courtroom! Attend the pre-trial conference at City Court (505 S. State St.) on July 8 at 1:30 p.m.
2. Sign the petition demanding that the District Attorney drop the charges
3. Send a letter to Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick demanding that the charges against Rev. Dexter and Derek Ford be dropped. You can email DA William Fitzpatrick at Daweb@ongov.net (please CC: firstname.lastname@example.org) or write him a letter at 505 S State St., Syracuse, NY 13202.