Occupy Fresno lining up big team for big fight

FRESNO, Calif.

The Occupiers have held nightly meetings in Courthouse Park every night since Oct. 9.

But Monday night is a little different, because by Monday night, they knew if they're arrested, they'll have a lot of help fighting the system.

Occupy Fresno participants have peacefully submitted to arrest for 16 nights -- many of them going to jail more than once for their cause.

"Five arrests, 9 different citations," Vanessa Aranda told Action News.

Despite all her arrests, Aranda still comes back to Courthouse Park every day.

When the clock strikes midnight, she's breaking the law if she stays in the park.

But Occupiers say the sheriff's office is wrong to target them like criminals.

"I feel like it's a complete waste," Aranda said. "I mean, we're not doing anything. They've said it many times that we're very peaceful."

Sheriff's deputies say they need to enforce the law whether the violators are peaceful or not. Meanwhile, overtime and other costs are racking up.

Those costs could soon shift to the district attorney's office.

Every arrest leads to a misdemeanor court case and the Occupiers plan to fight -- with a huge team of attorneys taking up their cause.

"We're going to bring it on and it's going to be a real problem for the district attorney's office to prosecute all these cases at one time," said defense attorney Charles Magill.

Magill is one of about 20 Valley lawyers who are volunteering to defend people arrested at Courthouse Park.

He compares the Occupy movement to Vietnam-era protests.

"I think we're seeing a new generation of protest and I think it's about time that people started standing up for individual rights versus corporate rights," Magill said.

Aranda says she's encouraged by the support she'll have court, but it doesn't matter how many lawyers she has, the real battle is in the park.

"If we had 20 or 15, or ten, or five [lawyers], I'd still be out here," she said. "I mean, it's nice to have a little cushion there, but I'd still be out here either way."

Action News asked the district attorney's office about its plans for prosecuting Occupy Fresno participants, but we received no response by the close of business.

Lawyers for Occupy are also fighting the sheriff's office in federal court.

They're hoping a judge will force the sheriff's office to stop making arrests later this week.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.