HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – One courtroom. One judge. One prosecutor.
Friday saw a mass trial in Huntsville City Court for the remaining cases related to arrests during last June’s racial justice protests outside the Madison County Courthouse.
In total, 24 people were arrested during the protests. Since then, a number of the charges connected to those arrests have been dropped.
Out of the 24 initial arrests, Huntsville Police say that one person was arrested on a firearms charge, and three were charged with receiving stolen property; the remaining arrests were for disorderly conduct.
AL.com reports that some people had charges dropped after they agreed not to sue the city.
Five of the defendants in court today pleaded guilty after working out plea agreements. Those agreements resulted in a $100 fine and court costs which totaled $464.
Some of the defendants that News 19 spoke with today said they don’t believe their action that night warranted an arrest. Let alone prosecution.
“I feel like you can’t protest anymore. It’s like, there wasn’t anybody rioting, there wasn’t anybody breaking anything, it was pretty calm. I mean sure the permit or whatever, but why do you need a permit from the government to protest, that kind of defeats the point of a protest.” said Alan Boone, one of the protesters arrested that summer.
Three people on the docket chose to contest the charges and stood trial Friday afternoon: Tyler Webb, Elijah Webb, and Antwon Witchard.
The prosecution brought 7 witnesses to the stand, all of which were current or former Huntsville police officers varying in rank. Each officer stated the same case: protestors the night of June 3, including the three men standing trial, failed to disperse after receiving orders to do so.
After hours of witness testimony and body camera footage review, Judge Grimes ultimately found Tyler and Elijah Webb guilty of disorderly conduct. But Tyler said officers were never clear in their instruction.
“If they don’t want us there, give us clear concise orders about where exactly you want us to go to. Saying move does not imply a direction. Saying move back only implies backward but if you have officers behind you also shouting move, you’re stuck,” he said. “So I stayed put.”
Tyler received the largest fine of all of the protestors Friday, $200 plus court costs and fees. He plans to appeal.
Witchard was found not guilty.
The Huntsville City Council announced that next week the long-awaited Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Report will be released to the public. This report addresses what happened between police and citizens at those protests and how the relationship between the two can improve.