PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - A court proceeding aimed at restoring criminal charges against 17 Black Lives Matter protesters fell apart, much like the original agreement that brought them to court in the first place.
The case stems from last summer when the 17 protesters were arrested, after blocking a part of Portland’s Commercial Street.
Today's hearing came to an abrupt end when the judge overseeing the case recused himself at the request of a defense attorney. That came after a heated exchange between the judge and that defense attorney.
“I’m also deeply disturbed that you’re marketing and posturing in such difficult terms, so get on with your next witness," said Judge Paul Fritzsche.
I’m going to move for your recusal on behalf of my client your honor", defense attorney Tom Hallett responded.
Granted we’re done", said Fritzsche.
The hearing ended after attorneys representing the protesters failed to see eye to eye with the judge. The judge wanted the two sides to sit down again and try to reach a deal. The protesters wanted their day in court
“He wanted people to get together, I’m not going to say whether that was right or wrong, but we obviously have the right to due process and the right to a hearing”, said Hallett.
The protesters arrived with plenty of supporters to continue their demonstration outside, and at times, inside the courthouse.
“Direct action and civil disobedience has been an integral part of the movement for racial equality and collective liberation. We stand by these activists", said spokesperson Iris Sangiovanni.
The prosecutor and protesters had previously reached an agreement that would reduce the criminal charges to a violation of a civil ordinance. The protesters were supposed to take part in a Restorative Justice program with Portland Police Chief Mike Sauschuck, but refused when they learned they’d be broken into two separate groups. Today their attorneys blamed the District Attorney’s Office for a having a prosecutor at the session and inviting representatives of the NAACP and The ACLU.
The prosecutor says she wanted nothing more than to have productive discussions, aimed at bringing the two sides together.
“We were prepared to even go back and try and make that happen today and they don’t want to do to so that’s where we’re at”, said deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman.
The hearing will now be rescheduled with another judge presiding.