BRUTAL TREATMENT CONTINUES AGAINST JAILED PROTESTERS
As many of you know, ACT UP's Kate Sorensen has been targeted with a bunch of trumped up charges in connection with the August 1 day of action at the Republican Convention. Today was her preliminary hearing.
Although it went pretty well, it is just the first step in a very long process to win her freedom and to clear her of all charges. And at the present time, we still have at least EIGHT ACT UP members inside, and two out on bail.
And, although Kate's legal counsel is willing to work for free, there will be additional court costs for investigators and other matters, so please continue raising funds.
Kate's bail has been reduced from $1 million to $100,000. She is being bailed out, hopefully it will go through tonight and she can come home. It may not happen until tomorrow.
They also dropped some of her charges. Her charges are now:
Risking a Catastrophe
plus a bunch of misdemeanors, including Possessing an Instrument of Crime [a cell phone!]
Her next court date is August 31
Selected highlights from Judge Ratacco:
"In my opinion, people had a right to be out there that day"
"She's a good person, she's an activist"
"Anarchy is not illegal"
Phila. Inquirer (Metro section),
online edition, 7:30 pm, 8/10/2000
Judge cuts bail for woman accused of leading protests
The judge also dismissed some charges against Kathleen G. Sorenson. Also, a group of rabbis denounced the arrest of nonviolent protesters during the Republican convention.
By Linda Loyd and Julie Stoiber
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
A Philadelphia judge Thursday drastically cut bail from $1 million to $100,000 for Kathleen G. Sorenson, described by prosecutors as a leader of last week's GOP convention protests, but whose attorney said was a peacemaker trying to prevent disruptions in the streets.
A short time later, in a news conference at the National Museum of American Jewish History, a group of rabbis denounced the arrest of nonviolent protesters during the convention as a carefully calculated blow to political tolerance, drawing parallels to the crushing of resistance during the Holocaust.
Sorenson, 38, who is an aide to a Philadelphia labor union leader, was arrested Aug. 1 during a day of mayhem in Center City. Police said she gave marching orders to several hundred protesters who overturned trash cans, set fires, blocked roads and spray-painted cars during a day of mayhem in Center City.
Police testified at Thursday's preliminary hearing in Municipal Court that they did not observe Sorenson do anything illegal, but said that she was using a cell phone to direct protesters' activities as they moved through the city.
"I never saw her light anything on fire, throw a flammable, turn over trash cans or spray paint," testified Det. Albert Ford, of the Department warrant unit, who monitored protesters near City Hall. "I watched her for a little over an hour, talk on the telephone. She directed the crowd."
Municipal Court Judge Louis G.F. Retacco threw out an arson charge against Sorenson, as well as several misdemeanors, including possession of an instrument of crime and obstruction of justice. He ordered her to stand trial on charges of riot, risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief and conspiracy, all felonies.
"There's some evidence that she was part of this group that caused damage," he said.
Earlier, the judge asked the prosecutor to explain "how she is guilty of illegal acts. In my opinion, those people had a right to be out there," Retacco said.
Assistant District Attorney David Desiderio said Sorenson was legally liable as a conspirator because she directed a group of 400 to 700 protesters. "Did she actually light the fires? No," the prosecutor said. "But on grounds of conspiratorial liability, she was involved."
Retacco expressed surprise at Sorenson's $1 million bail, and promptly cut it.
"Had it not been for the damage caused to those cars on the Parkway, which I find to be illegal and antisocial conduct, this case wouldn't get beyond this court," the judge said.
Sorenson's attorney, Lawrence Krasner, said his client was monitoring the protesters to keep peace. "This case is a joke and consists of a woman on a cellphone, pointing directions."
Krasner said the evidence at trial will show that Sorenson, and other alleged leaders, including John Sellers and Terrence McGuckin, have "spent their lives pursuing nonviolence, peaceful social change." He said Sorenson and the others were on the streets trying to "assist in free speech and discourage misconduct. The city had a script that anyone who was organizing was bad. But script doesn't fit reality," he said.
Sorenson, who was expected to post the 10 percent bail - $10,000 - last night or today, is employed as special assistant to Henry Nicholas, president of the Hospital and Health Care Workers Union 1199C. In a letter read in court, Nicholas called Sorenson an "excellent, loyal and dedicated employee" and said "her services are needed for my organization at the earliest moment."
Krasner said Sorenson, who recently bought a home at 49th and Catherine Streets, is an AIDS activist who recently traveled to South America [sic: actually South Africa] for an international AIDS conference. "She's a good person," said the judge, in lowering bail. "She's an activist. In my opinion, if she puts up $10,000, she will appear for trial."
Sorenson was one of hundreds of protestors detained during the convention. Police say there were 391 arrests, but protest organizers continue to put the number at 450.
"The people who took to the streets acted out of principle," said Rabbi Brian Walt, of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue in Chestnut Hill, at Thursday's news conference. "This is an attempt to intimidate ... and to criminalize moral principles."
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling said the police round-up of protest leaders and nonviolent demonstrators was "carefully orchestrated to make sure there is no vast protest movement in the United States."
In a statement signed by rabbis, rabbinical students and others affiliated with Jewish organizations, the group said it deplored "the violence committed by a small minority of protesters."
The Jewish leaders were urged to speak out by students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote and the protest group R2K Network, which jointly organized Thursday's news conference.
Labeled "a progressive Jewish response to the City of Philadelphia," the news conference was timed to coincide with Tisha B'av, a Jewish day of fasting and mourning which marks the destruction of temples in ancient Jerusalem.
"Whether a call for vigilance against other oppressive powers, or a call to use political power justly, we hear in Tisha B'Av a mandate to speak out against Philadelphia's treatment of the RNC protesters," the group's statement said.
"It reminds us of the ways the Jewish people have been oppressed," Rabbi Elisa Goldberg said. "I'm reminded of how important voices of dissent are."
Rabbi Walt, who said he took part in protests last week, and Rabbi Liebling said they hoped to visit protesters who are still being held in city prisons to find out whether claims of abuse behind bars were true.
Prison spokesman Robert Eskind said about 90 protesters were still being detained Thursday. Protest organizers put the number at 225.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, AUGUST 14,2000:
As of this morning, Monday, August 14, there are still 48 Republican convention protesters incarcerated in Philadelphia jails. Three are facing felony charges and the remaining arrestees are facing misdemeanor charges.
$20,000 in bail is still urgently needed today to free those in Philadelphia, and donations and loans are immediately accepted. Your $5, $10, $20, $50 & $100 and larger donations will go a long way to freeing these activists.
How to help:
wire money immediately to:
Philadelphia Direct Action Group (P-DAG) at:
1600 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
access the Philadelphia Direct Action Group's web site for routing info: http://www.thepartysover.org
donations to the above account are not tax-deductable
or call (215) 701-7311 for recorded information
information for tax deductable donations can also be accessed at the above website.
P-DAG is willing to take loans for bail funds, again please see the website for details on how long you can expect to wait for repayment.
Activists are dealing with brutal conditions in jail, despite the mainstream media's portrayal of the Philadelphia Police Department as "using restraint", the truth is activists have been beaten and denied access to medical care.
We need to help free these activists immediately and assist them in dealing with the legal process that they still face.
Please note: daily updates will be provided on the status of those still incarcerated. Please assume that bail is still urgently needed until an update is sent with notification that everyone is out of jail in Philadelphia.
Julie Davids, ACT UP Philadelphia
15 Aug 2000
All members of ACT UP Philly who were arrested two weeks ago are now out.
Kate Sorensen's bail was reduced from 1 million to $100,000 so we were able to bail her out.
However, all of them still face charges. Kate still has 4 felonies and a bunch of misdemeanors to face. We are still in need of donations to our legal defense fund!
We are hosting a public town meeting in North Philadelphia next Wednesday to tell the truth about the events of the last few weeks, talk about the impact of this crackdown on AIDS activism, and plan for next steps.
The Philadelphia inquirer published the following stories about Kate and her case:
March 8th, 2001 UPDATE:
Donations for legal defense still needed, can be mailed to:
Legal Defense Fund
ACT UP Philadelphia
PO Box 22439
Philadelphia, PA 19110
> Kris Hermes, R2K Legal Collective (215) 925-6791
> Kate Sorensen, ACT UP Philadelphia (917) 514-5579
> Lawrence Krasner, R2K Lawyer (215) 636-9500
PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY PURSUES SHAM CASE AGAINST ALLEGED RNC PROTEST "RINGLEADER"
Kate Sorensen--of ACT UP Philadelphia, and a defendant from the GOP Convention protest--initially slapped with $1 million bail, began her jury trial today. Sorensen is defending herself against charges of ìRiot,î ìRisking Catastrophe,î ìCriminal Mischief,î and ìConspiracy.î Sorensen--longtime proponent of nonviolent direct action--was originally charged with ten felonies and ten misdemeanors.
(Philadelphia, PA) Community activist and ACT UP Philadelphia member, Kate Sorensen, began her jury trial today on felony charges--stemming from the Republican Convention (RNC) protests last summer. Sorensen was arrested on the day of mass protest against a morally and functionally bankrupt criminal justice system. She was apprehended while walking through Love Park talking on her cellular phone and was not told why she was being arrested. Later, Sorensen found out that she was being blamed for virtually everything that had happened in the city that day.
Sorensen was the first felony defendant to go to trial out of over 300 people facing charges related to the protests during the RNC. Singled out as a "ringleader" by law enforcement and held for ten days in prison, Sorensen, was originally charged with ten felonies and ten misdemeanors.
At arraignment, her bail was set at $1 million, an unprecedented sum for nonviolent protest activity. Eventually, Sorensenís bail as reduced to $100,000, still exceedingly high, and sixteen of her charges were dropped during pretrial hearings. Sorensen is left with four felonies: riot, risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, and conspiracy.
Case after case has been thrown out against the majority of RNC defendants over the last seven months. Sorensen's case illustrates the overcharging by police and the overreaction by the city of Philadelphia. To date, over ninety percent of the cases against protesters have resulted in acquittals or dismissals.
"District Attorney Abraham has waged war on dissent in Philadelphia, and she has yet to justify her actions both during the convention and for months after," says Krasner."They had no proof of illegal activity against virtually all of the protesters they took to court, and they had no proof against Kate.This is prosecutorial misconduct and the DA must stop persecuting committed activists."
Allyson Collins of the Washington, DC-based group, Human Rights Watch, argues that the ìallegations of excessively harsh treatment, including the high bail amounts set for many of those arrested, have a chilling effect on those who wish to express their views and exercise their right to free speechî
An AIDS activist since 1988 and a longtime proponent of nonviolent action, Sorensen has been in local and national campaigns for social change for more than twenty years. "ACT UP and Kate Sorensen's efforts are recognized nationally and internationally for expressly challenging the role of corporate greed in health-care," said Christie Balka, executive director of Bread and Roses, a prominent Philadelphia funding organization. "This is why the authorities targeted Kate for arrest."
Other potential witnesses include Henry Nicholas, President of 1199-C, the Philadelphia chapter of the hospital and health-care workers union. Sorensen had been working for Nicholas weeks prior to the RNC, organizing a legal march promoting universal health-care. The march, successfully facilitated by Sorensen, was meant to challenge the Republicanís and then-Governor Bushís policies on health care during the convention.
Kate Sorensen was born in Torrance, CA in 1962. Sorensen attended California University of the Arts, where she studied fine arts, printing and publishing. At sixteen, she got her first job in a print shop and worked in the printing industry for nearly 20 years. A West Philadelphia homeowner and artist, Sorensen currently works as a union organizer for 1199-C, the hospital and health care workers union.
As a teenager, Sorensen joined efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and was involved in other key feminist activist campaigns. In the eighties, as her friends began to die of HIV/AIDS, Kate Sorensen became involved in the earliest efforts to bring attention to the epidemic. In 1986, Sorensen joined ACT UP Los Angeles, an all-volunteer AIDS activist group. Her first AIDS protest was a successful attempt to secure beds for AIDS patients at LA County Hospital. Sorensen and other activists engaged in non-violent civil disobedience at the Los Angeles City Council. The county agreed to open an AIDS ward, one of the first in the nation.
Sorensen was a founding member of Queer Nation Los Angeles, a grassroots organization that drew attention to the impact of homophobia in the United States. Her work with Queer Nation included organizing a large demonstration at the 1991 Academy Awards to protest the negative depiction of gays and lesbians in cinema and to educate American society about gay and lesbian lives. At the historic 1993 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender March on Washington, Sorensen led an all-womenís march as a member of the National ACT UP Womenís Network.
In 1994, Sorensen moved to Philadelphia, where she became an active member of ACT UP Philadelphia, the nationís largest grassroots AIDS activist organization. She has helped organize numerous successful campaigns to address the needs of women, low-income people and people of color, and other groups hard-hit by the epidemic. These campaigns include persuading the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry to increase and improve research on women with HIV; coordinating a public poster project utilizing the art and stories of homeless people living with HIV; and designing an internationally-distributed World AIDS Day information kit on the lack of AIDS drugs in poor nations. She has worked with recovering drug users to increase access to information about HIV prevention and treatment.
Last summer, Sorensen served as the organizer for the March for Universal Health Care, a rally that united unions, health care providers, and medical consumers in the call for equitable health care for all Americans. She also traveled to Durban, South Africa, to participate in the 13th International AIDS Conference, where she served as press liaison for Women at Durban, a satellite conference that provided workshops and trainings by and for HIV-infected women, including many from local townships and neighboring African countries.
Recently, Sorensen has served as a link between anti-globalization activist groups and the communities of color impacted by unjust trade and social policies. In April 2000, Sorensen facilitated the participation of over 500 African-American HIV-positive Philadelphians in the core rally and march at the Washington, D.C. Mobilization for Global Justice. In June 2000, she helped put together a groundbreaking training for low-income people and people of color in Philadelphia, designed to increase their skills as advocates in their communities.
Currently, Sorensen is continuing to work with ACT UP Philadelphia and the Nobel-prize winning organization Doctors Without Borders, on a highly-successful campaign to put affordable AIDS medications and other lifesaving drugs within the reach of the millions of HIV-infected individuals in the developing world.
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