Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne overturned her initial Feb. 24 ruling on Occupy Santa Barbara protestors’ right to assemble in De La Guerra Plaza, allowing the plaintiffs to revise their original argument before the court.
Sterne previously ruled the plaintiffs — eight demonstrators involved in last October’s protests — did not adequately provide evidence that a city ordinance had interfered with their right to assemble. The judge’s reversal on Monday, granted after a formal request by attorney Joe Allen, gives the plaintiffs until March 14 to revise their original case.
According to a report from the Santa Barbara News-Press, Allen will revise the complaint to reference instances of the public spending as much as 36 hours camped out on public land in front of movie theaters for the Twilight Saga and staying in overnight lines without a permit for the Apple Store’s new product releases. The plaintiffs and their lawyers — Robert Landheer, Alan Karow and Allen — reportedly aim to demonstrate that the referenced incidents are similar to the Occupy movement but did not result in legal repercussions.
The alternative approach takes into account the court’s previous decision and addresses the plaintiff’s argument from a new angle, according to Landheer.
“This is a procedural decision,” Landheer said. “We are allowed to file a complaint. That [Feb. 24 decision] was an appropriate ruling and the amendment complaint will be filed, alleging other fine details of the First Amendment rights. I think the courts acted properly.”
Allen said the city will void the citations protestors received last October during a separate hearing on April 24.
Occupy Santa Barbara movement organizer Marshall Getto said police incorrectly cited the protestors under city ordinances created for parks.
“De La Guerra Plaza is not a park … It really is a different kind of space,” Getto said. “You do not see city ordinance signs and the rules. The citations and tickets that were given were given under ordinances that do not govern the area.”
Santa Barbara City Councilmember Cathy Murillo said Occupy protestors maintain the right to assemble within the bounds of the law.
“I appreciate the message of Occupy SB and even if they do not get to sleep in the plaza overnight, they can demonstrate during the day and they can come to public comment,” Murillo said. “They can still protest and carry their message.”
Murillo called Allen’s arguments “clever” and said she would keep a close eye on the case.