The last two protesters still in federal custody for breaching a fence around the Wells Fargo Center during this week’s Democratic National Convention were released Friday.
In a brief hearing at the Robert N.C. Nix Federal Courthouse, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn Heffley agreed to free Jeremy Graber, 31, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Travis Martin, 28, of Houston, Texas.
The two were among seven protesters federal agents arrested Wednesday night for entering federally restricted grounds, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. Four other protesters were arrested for the same offense the previous night.
All but Graber and Martin had been released within a day. Martin had an outstanding warrant in Texas for an unrelated crime, while Graber had what a prosecuting attorney described as three “throwing knives” dangling from his waistband when authorities handcuffed him.
At a hearing Thursday, defense attorney Paul Hetznecker said Graber was a paramedic who attended the protests to offer aid to anyone pepper-sprayed or otherwise injured by police. He was carrying a knapsack full of medical supplies and uses his knives to cut gauze and bandages, Hetznecker added.
Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Chun Barry offered no explanation for why her office agreed to free Graber, after insisting the day before that he presented a danger to law enforcement.
Besides the arrests, Philadelphia police gave 103 protesters civil citations for minor infractions like disorderly conduct.
Mayor Jim Kenney, police Commissioner Richard Ross and other city officials will gather for a news conference later this afternoon assessing how Philadelphia fared during the DNC.
But most observers have lauded the city for dodging the police-protester clashes that marred both the Republican National Convention here in 2000 and other conventions in other cities in recent decades.
While some state troopers donned riot gear at least one night this week and the FBI stashed military tanks behind the federal building in preparation for chaos, the week did not produce the sorts of viral videos and photos that roil activists and often spark lawsuits.
One SEPTA officer did use pepper-spray on protesters Tuesday night outside the Wells Fargo when a crowd of Bernie Sanders supporters and others breached the security fence.
But authorities reviewed the incident, including a recording from the officer’s body camera, and deemed his use of pepper spray warranted, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said. Federal agents requested backup help from SEPTA officers when a gap opened in the gate near the AT&T subway station, and one agent was hit by the gate, while protesters grabbed another agent’s arm, Busch said.