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Mixed Results

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Protests of the county's handling of G-20 security did not last much beyond two weeks after the late-September international summit. But six arrested for interrupting County Executive Dan Onorato's Oct. 6 entry into the governor's race have only now finished their hearings, with mixed results.

On March 11, Naomi Archer successfully argued that the charges of defiant trespass did not apply to her. Archer is the Fairview, N.C., organizer of the local Climate Convergence protest, whose week-long encampment was effectively ended by local law enforcement before the G-20 itself began. Shortly thereafter, she jumped on stage with Onorato and attempted to speak into his microphone. District Justice Tony Ceoffe ruled that, because Archer left when informed by police that the ostensibly public event was actually private, she was not guilty.

Alex Lotorto didn't fair as well. A local organizer of Students for a Democratic Society, he had linked arms with other protesters -- some of whom were not arrested -- and chanted for free-speech rights. Although Lotorto claimed he was dragged away before officers issued any orders to disperse, Ceoffe believed an officer had issued an order, and found Lotorto guilty. He wasn't fined, but was ordered to pay court costs. He said he will appeal.

In earlier hearings, Pitt student Jonathan LaTourelle was found guilty and fined $100 for helping to hold up a banner that said "What Happened At Pitt?" -- a reference to more than 100 arrests on campus the night of Sept. 25, after the G-20 had ended. "I was charged with defiant trespass for attending a public political event and quietly but publicly expressing a dissident political perspective," LaTourelle still maintains. Four others assisting with the banner were not arrested.

Adrienne Mellori was among the group who locked arms and chanted about their right to free speech, on a platform next to the event's main stage. Mellori was acquitted when her arresting officer did not attend her hearing. Outcomes are unclear for two other arrestees, Shaun Johnston and Dreya Chapman, whose records are unavailable from the county.

Most puzzling to Archer and the other arrestees, of course, is why the charges were even pursued. When asked about Onorato's attitude toward the arrests, campaign spokesperson Brian Herman said, Onorato is "not pursuing anything."

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