Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free Speech Advocates Brave Winter Storm To Save Bill Of Rights

posted 12:15pm 02.26.08
by EF Swagee

The bone-chilling bluster that accompanied Chicagoland's latest winter storm did not keep dedicated free speech advocates from exercising the First Amendment outside the DuPage County criminal court building this morning.

The group of eight demonstrators included members of Dupage Peace Through Justice Coalition, DuPage Against War Now, and Women In Black.

Some held signs reading, "Dissent Is Patriotic", "Resist Illegitimate Authority", and "This Is Free Speech". Others distributed leaflets with information about an ongoing legal battle between DuPage County law enforcement officials and local peace activists; Jeff Zurawski of Downers Grove and Sarah Hartfield of Naperville, aka "The DuPage Two", who were arrested weeks after they displayed an IMPEACH Bush & Cheney banner while standing on a public walkway above Interstate 355 in un-incorporated Lombard.

News about the DuPage Two case has been reported in mainstream publications like the The Daily Herald, Chicago Suburban News, and The Chicago Tribune. It’s made its way around the internet, too, at: ChicagoFreeSpeechZone, The Progressive, Crooks & Liars, Freeway Blogger, MichaelMoore.com, News With Views, After Downing Street, and other sites.

The activists who braved the arctic tundra-like wind chill say the case, which is up for a hearing this Thursday on the defendants' motion to quash the arrest warrants, is very important because it strikes at the 1st Amendment’s core.

Kevin Lindemann, co-chair of the DuPage Peace Through Justice Coalition said, "I try to follow these cases, and I must say, I have never heard of one quite like this. Peace activists are bannering over expressways all across the country, and generally there are no problems with the police,as long as the banners are held and not attached to public property andnot dangled in a way that they could fall on to the expressway."

Some heated verbal exchanges between demonstrators and passersby provided warmth for the participants, no doubt. Paul Kreft of Downers Grove was holding an anti-war placard when a sharply dressed, middle-aged man, a lawyer perhaps, questioned his support for our troops in Iraq. Kreft told the court-goer that he wants the troops home now. With crude eloquence, the man replied, "Shut your fucking pie hole!"

The Collins Law Firm in Naperville, IL is representing the DuPage Two pro-bono. Attorney Julie Anderson said today that Jeff and Sarah will not be put on the stand to testify at the hearing. She also mentioned that the Sheriff's Deputy who filed the charges is a witness for the prosecutors and the truck driver who called 911 is a witness for the DuPage Two. Hmmmmm?

Those who would like to express their opinions regarding this case may wish to contact the DuPage County State's Attorney:

Joseph Birkett, State's Attorney
503 N County Farm Rd
Wheaton, IL 60187
(630) 407-8000
(630) 407-8151 (fax)

UPDATE (02/28):
The case has been continued. Again.

Although today's hearing was scheduled back in mid-December, the state claimed it was not prepared to proceed.

Their witness, the irate Sheriff's Deputy who filed charges against the DuPage Two, was a no show, despite having been subpoenaed. The assistant state's attorney said he retired recently and is currently somewhere in Florida.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 10.

UPDATE (03/05/08):

Hearing postponed for protesters

By Dan Petrella, dpetrella@mysuburbanlife.com
GateHouse News Service
Mon Mar 03, 2008, 12:17 PM CST

DuPage County, IL -
A pair of anti-war protesters facing disorderly conduct charges will have to wait until at least April to find out if a DuPage County judge will dismiss the charges against them.

Jeff Zurawski, 39, of Downers Grove and Sarah Hartfield, 45, of Naperville were arrested in May, a few weeks after displaying a sign reading “Impeach Bush and Cheney — Liars” and an upside-down U.S. flag on the Great Western Trail bridge over Interstate 355. It is alleged that either Zurawski or Hartfield made a throwing motion toward the highway while standing on the bridge.

The two defendants deny the allegations and are seeking to have the charges against them dismissed. They appeared Thursday in DuPage County Circuit Court, accompanied by about a dozen supporters. Their attorney, Shawn Collins, was prepared to argue a motion to quash their arrest and dismiss the charges.

Judge Michael Burke and the state’s attorney’s office were unclear on the wording of Collins’ motion and its intent. After clarifying that Collins was seeking to have the charges dismissed, Burke continued the case to April 10.

Had a hearing on the motion occurred, Collins would have argued that his clients were arrested without probable cause.

The prosecution’s key witness, former DuPage sheriff’s deputy Dennis Rogers, was summoned to appear Thursday but was not present in court. Rogers has retired and moved to Florida.
Without his testimony, Collins argued that the prosecution had no case and charges should be dismissed.
Due to the lack of clarity in the defense’s motion, Burke decided to give the state’s attorney’s office time to contact Rogers and ensure his presence at the April court date.

“If officer Rogers doesn’t show up, the state can’t prove that the arrest was made with probable cause, and the case should be thrown out,” Collins said after the hearing. “Our belief remains that this case never should have been prosecuted.”

UPDATE (03/06/08):

EDITORIAL: Continuing case against protesters is futile

GateHouse Media News Service
Wed Mar 05, 2008, 01:05 PM CST

A criminal case that should have never been brought will now be continued until next month.

The DuPage County state’s attorney’s office charged Sarah Hartfield, 45, of Naperville and Jeff Zurawski, 39, of Downers Grove with disorderly conduct last year. In May, they displayed a banner on a pedestrian bridge across the Great Western Trail that read, “Impeach Bush and Cheney — Liars” along with an upside-down U.S. flag; they were both arrested a few weeks later.

One of the accusations against them was that rocks were thrown from the bridge at cars traveling on I-355 below. This charge morphed into a claim that while on the bridge, one of the defendants made a throwing gesture, as reported by a motorist.

Shawn Collins, the attorney representing both Hartfield and Zurawski, filed a motion to have the case dismissed during a Feb. 28 court appearance. Judge Michael Burke said the wording of the motion was unclear, so he continued the case until April 10 to allow the state’s attorney’s office to see if its key witness would make it to court.

While the proposal to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney has little merit, Hartfield and Zurawski were within their right to express their views. Once they were asked by law enforcement officials to remove the display, they complied.

The task that the state’s attorney’s office has set for itself, proving that one or both defendants intended to put motorists in fear for their safety, is an incredibly tall order.

Perhaps one of the defendants was reaching out to remove the display when the motorist passed by. Or maybe one of them was waving an arm while speaking with someone else at the scene.

Clearing the hurdle of reasonable doubt on this case seems highly unlikely. Given that there are more pressing matters for prosecutors to pursue, the state’s attorney’s office has an obligation to end this matter immediately. Charging forward would be an exercise in futility.

Suburban Life Publications


Anonymous said...

I grew up in Lombard. I'm surprised they were not shot.

Freewayblogger said...

I'll be peace-on-earthing southern california next week in your honor...

mel said...

Looks cold, gray and ugly. Its gotta be Dupage co.