It should be noted that ALL changes were dropped against Tamara by the Orange County Assistant District Attorney, Jeffrey Nieman. In a letter to Tamara’s attorney, Al McSurely, Nieman said “the facts [are] insufficient for conviction beyond a reasonable doubt” or to put it another way; there was no probable cause for the arrest. More concerning the DA’s decision to drop charges, courtesy of the Indy Weekly here.
On November 30, 2007, there was a picket on a public sidewalk in front of the Burger King on Elliott Road. The protest was part of a national day of action in solidarity with farmworkers who pick tomatoes for Burger King. 15 minutes before the end of the picket, Students for a Democratic Society member Tamara Tal arrived. As picketers were in the process of leaving several police cars drove up and Chapel Hill police officers proceeded to harass picketers who were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and right to free speech. The picketers stated that they would leave but were prevented from doing so by the police officers who were demanding that protesters identify themselves (when they were on a public sidewalk). Tamara was arrested for “failure to disperse” on a public sidewalk as she was attempting to walk to her car to leave.
Tamara is being represented by civil rights attorney Al McSurely of the North Carolina NAACP. “The officers lacked probable cause to arrest Ms. Tal, ” Mr. McSurely said. “All people who are concerned about the assault on the Constitution need to remind the Chapel Hill authorities that our rights to assemble and raise fundamental issues about public policy are precious.”
Tamara’s trial was set for April 14th but Officer Sheehan called in sick so the trial has been postponed until Monday, May 12. It is an outrage that this trial is taking place at all, and demand that the D.A. drop the charges and reprimand the Chapel Hill Police Department and Officer Sheehan for their actions.
[Edited and changed permalink: 10/18/09]