When Anthony Newby of Occupy Homes MN was brought up on charges recently of assault, disorderly conduct and trespassing for doing absolutely nothing wrong, it made it obvious what the U.S. justice system is really all about and who and what it really represents. Newby’s trial was meant to send the message to the Occupy Movement that if you challenge us and our criminality, we will use the arms of the State to push back.
Newby won a partial victory when the disorderly conduct charge was thrown out and he was found not guilty of assault (which incidentally never took place) and charged with trespassing. His trial reinforced the fact that the so-called justice system does not exist to mete out justice, but rather as punishment to those who are very poor, working class, and colored. And, it’s also set up to shut down those who have the nerve to challenge its partners in crime, in this case the economic system.
Newby’s trial no doubt was a show trial. Newby never assaulted anyone. Newby was standing in the door of the law offices of Rieter and Schiller asking if he could talk to one of the lawyers at the firm when someone flung the door open from behind. Denise Rienke, a paralegal at the firm, came flying out of the door and brushed by Newby, nearly falling before the protestors with Newby caught her and prevented her from falling.
Yet Reinke insisted, either on her own accord or as prompted by her law firm, to lie and say that she was assaulted by Newby. Anyone with any common sense looking at a film of the incident — especially when slowed down frame by frame — could see that she fell out of the door or tripped, but it was clear that Newby had nothing to do with her fall. And no real or “reasonable” trespass took place, since the activist only entered the hallway of the building and tried to deliver a copy of a petition and a letter, and then simply turned and left.
Yet the so-called distinguished Judge Nathanson allowed this show trial to go on for nearly seven days, pretending that this was a real case and that Newby’s was a “real” criminal. In fact, Newby’s lawyer did a great job of portraying the activist as a calm, nonviolent, reasonable and disciplined organizer.
The not-so-subtle attempt to bait the anti-foreclosure movement was clearly politically motivated. Those who oppose the injustices being reigned down upon American homeowners have consistently employed nonviolent tactics of resistance.
It is the system that seeks to put people out in the streets and has used law enforcement to do so, at times to violently. What is more violent than putting a human being in the street?
The attempt to paint those who oppose the injustices of the system as violent is a trick of the system. It is used to scare away potential allies and to make it easier to hassle them and to make the harassment appear justified. Malcolm X used to talk about how the system “makes the victim the criminal and the criminal the victim.” That’s what went on in St. Paul.
Not only was Newby on trial, but the entire movement to help homeowners hold on to their homes and forestall or reverse foreclosure was on trial. Activists all over the country have committed lots of time, most of it free, to helping their neighbors get loan modifications as well as fighting for principal reduction.
While Judge Nathanson insisted on respect for the court process, making the observers stand at different times, Ramsey County sheriff’s deputies could barely contain their disdain for those who support the idea that human beings have a right to shelter. They actively hassled a few supporters who sighed or giggled quietly to themselves during proceedings.
At one point, three sheriff’s deputies were in the courtroom as if to say, “We have to watch these savage folks. You know they have been running around trying to help people stay in their homes and calling out the Big Banks. They are dangerous. We have to watch them.”
If anyone should be categorized as savage it should be the banks and the Reiter and Schiller law firm, whose job it is to carry out the dirty work of the banks, specifically Freddie Mac. I say dirty work because despite the cries of apologists for the banks, many were foreclosed on who were trying to pay their mortgages.
And the banks were partners to deals in which folks got sub-prime loans and adjustable loans when they were told they had prime and fixed-rate loans. The banks took advantage of customers who, because of the recession, lost their jobs or income and foreclosed on folks despite promises to modify their loan in what’s now known as dual tracking. Some banks even foreclosed on property that had cloudy titles or titles that didn’t belong to it.
No, the wrong folks were on trial here. It’s not lost on us that despite the well-publicized misbehavior and sometimes criminal behavior of the major banking institutions in the U.S., no one has been brought to trial. These folks stole and swindled and then had the nerve to put hard-working Americans — including the elderly — in the street. Yet, not one prosecution.
HSBC was recently fined $1.9 billion dollars for laundering the money of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. That’s right, the most murderous drug cartels in the world. According to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine, they laundered money to terrorist-associated banks in the Middle East.
One prosecutor was quoted as saying, “They broke every possible law in the book, and they did business with every kind of criminal you can possibly imagine.”
Yet, no one went to jail.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Black local news
Help amplify Black voices by donating to the MSR. Your contribution enables critical coverage of issues affecting the community and empowers authentic storytelling.
This ‘trial’ was a shameful waste of resources and a prime example of prosecutorial misconduct disguised as prosecutorial discretion. A seven day trial on MISDEMEANOR charges???!!! One would think there are bigger fish to fry – unless this isn’t really about trespass and assault; but is instead a kind of judicial theater meant to send a clear message to those who challenge the power structure. If you dare stand up to the banks who crashed our economy, and have the temerity to demand fair dealing for people, you are putting yourself at risk of a vicious response from a legal system which seems more and more to be the servant of those banks; not a system of justice at all. Message received. And rejected.
Anthony Newby is a calm, gentle person who is seeking some measure of housing justice for people who have been without a friend or voice in this economically devastating chapter of our history. We should count ourselves fortunate to have his talents and energy at work in our community. I hope the City of St. Paul residents feel they got their money’s worth for seven days of unnecessary harassment of a community leader. I rather doubt this episode is going to shut Anthony up; and I for one, am more determined than ever to support his work for housing justice.