Five of the seven protesters arrested on federal charges Wednesday night for breaching a fence into the federally restricted area around the Democratic National Convention were released today without paying bail.
But a federal judge held two without bail — Travis Martin, 28, of Houston, Texas, because he has an unrelated open warrant, and the other, Jeremy Graber, 31, of Rhode Island, because he had three “throwing knives” dangling from his waistband when Secret Service agents arrested him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Chun Barry described the knives as weapons, saying: “He went into a restricted area where the President and Vice President were speaking, while he had weapons on his person. He was in an area that was clearly demarcated, that had been breached by the use of a bolt cutter. The government believes this was a danger.”
But defense attorney Paul Hetznecker said Graber is a paramedic who uses his knives to cut gauze and bandages. Graber attended the protests Wednesday night to offer care in case any activists were injured, Hetznecker added.
Graber wasn’t charged with a weapons offense; but if authorities add such a charge, he could face a 10-year prison sentence, Hetznecker said. The judge set Graber’s arraignment for Monday, and rescheduled Martin’s for Friday afternoon.
The protesters released were Megan Munk, and Natalie Frazier, both 27 and from Forks, Washington; Jacob Van Buskirk, 23, of Seattle; Lincoln Bohn, 24, of California; and Dan Nguyen, whose age and hometown wasn’t released. One of them allegedly used bolt cutters to break open a gate in the perimeter fence at Broad and Pattison streets about 10:45 p.m., according to an affidavit in the case.
All were brought into the courtroom handcuffed and wearing brown jumpsuits. They were charged with knowingly entering a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so.
During the hearing, U.S. Marshals took a young man into custody who they suspected of illegally recording the hearing. Even news media are barred from recording federal court proceedings. Eric Fletcher, 23, of Portland, Ore., was later released with a “failure to conform with signs and directions” citation for allegedly videotaping the proceedings, U.S. Marshals assistant chief deputy Jim Burke said.
The seven were among 11 who have been federally charged so far with scaling the perimeter fence. Most were professed Bernie Sanders supporters, disgruntled with the political system.
“There’s a question of whether this violates First Amendment rights, when you put a fence up and prevent protesters from actually being anywhere near the place where they’re trying to protest,” Nathan Kincaid, 36, of Ohio, who came to the hearing to support his friends Martin and Van Buskirk. “I believe that’s significant motivation for the people who went over the fence.”
Philadelphia police also have issued 103 civil citations to protesters since the start of the DNC Monday, according to the police department. All but five are from out of town, police Commissioner Richard Ross said at a security briefing Thursday afternoon.
There have been court rulings generally upholding the right of government to set up protest zones, but individual protest zones have been overruled as too restrictive.
Ross said Secret Service agents caught the fence jumpers within “30 seconds.”
“They probably got no more than 3 to 5 feet inside of that fence. They didn’t get very far,” Ross said. “I cannot implore people enough not to breach that fence. It will be very heavily patrolled and the implications are severe.”
Hillary Clinton is set to speak tonight, and Bernie Sanders’ supporters have a demonstration planned that could result in more arrests.
They vow to “perform a citizens arrest,” claiming she is “an accessory to the mass election fraud that took place during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, and collusion with Democratic party officials who sought to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign,” according to a statement released by the DNC Action Committee.
The protesters plan to “march into the gates of the Wells Fargo center during her speech. Our intent is to non-violently present Hillary Rodham Clinton with a Citizens Arrest. We request that the Philadelphia Police Department, Homeland Security, and all present law enforcement agencies assist us in our Citizens Arrest. Should they choose to prevent us from carrying out the arrest, we are prepared to risk arrest ourselves.”