From Independent Weekly

Tamara Tal has been cleared of charges of failure to disperse, according to a letter sent from Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Nieman to Tal’s attorney, Al McSurely.

Nieman reportedly wrote in his letter that “the facts [are] insufficient for conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.” Tal had been arrested by Chapel Hill police and charged with “failure to disperse” at a demonstration last fall at a Burger King on Elliot Road. Tal, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, was among dozens of protesters rallying in support of raising the tomato pickers’ wages by one penny per pound. Burger King has stated it doesn’t have direct contact with the farm workers, but works through a purchasing agent.

Tal’s April 14 trial was postponed after the arresting officer called in sick.

“Assistant District Attorney Nieman’s decision clearly shows there was no justification for my arrest,” said Tal in a prepared statement. “I hope this sends a message to Officer Shehan and other police officers who would intimidate and harass peaceful protesters that justice and right will prevail in the end.” Tal added, “We won’t let rogue cops get in the way of our solidarity and support for the just struggle of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.”

Al McSurely commented, also in a prepared statement, “This is a great victory for the people, and for the First Amendment right to protest and demand redress of our grievances. We hope the Town of Chapel Hill has learned its lesson and will respect the First Amendment rights of its citizens.”

[Edited header and permalink 10/18/09]

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