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Occupy Des Moines protesters ask for jury trial

Two dozen Occupy Des Moines protesters are seeking a jury trial for charges of trespassing at the State Capitol grounds on Oct. 10, their lawyer says, while five have pleaded guilty.

Wednesday about a dozen of the demonstrators appeared before a judge in Polk County District Court. Most pleaded not guilty, but a handful opted to plead guilty and pay a fine of $317 for the simple misdemeanor.

Sally Frank, a law professor at Drake University and member of the National Lawyers Guild, is providing legal support to the demonstrators. She has submitted jury demands and expects the demonstrators to represent themselves with assistance at trial.

Frank said a total of 37 people were arrested on Oct. 10, as well as two juveniles. A date has not yet been set for the jury trial.

“If the state chooses to violate people’s First Amendment rights by making unlawful arrests it will have to prove it’s case against people who will exercise all of their rights within the system,” said Frank.

Megan Felt opted not to plead guilty on Wednesday, saying “our brutal arrest epitomizes the profound inequality and injustice of our governing system.”

“When average citizens get thrown in jail for participating in democracy and exercising our First Amendment rights, while big banks like Wells Fargo can crash the economy, kick people out of their homes and walk away with record profits and get a get out of jail free card, that’s not right,” she said.

Joe Fagan of Des Moines was one of those that pleaded guilty, although he was not apologetic for his actions. He said he was “there for a reason,” and blamed the country’s economic woes on financial institutions that “lied to people.”

“I plead guilty to trespassing, to being on the wrong side of some dotted line someplace, but I know in my heart what I did was the right thing to do,” Fagan said.

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