CNN investigation sheds light on grand jury exoneration of Occupy Wall Street protesters

Eight demonstrators faced 36 charges after violent clashes at Occupy Wall Street protests in New York in 2011

A CNN investigation has shed new light on the trial of eight demonstrators accused of assaulting NYPD officers during violent clashes with the police during Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City in 2011.

At the time, more than 400 protesters were arrested in an ill-tempered week of events that culminated with a mass march with chain-gang members charged with arresting over 600 protesters.

Two years after the arrests, 22 protesters testified to having their throats slashed by officers during the protests. While not admitting to the use of violence, officers told CNN they were justified in using physical force to disperse the protesters as they threatened the safety of officers and the public.

CNN reported that a grand jury voted to indict eight men of anti-capitalist protesters for assault on a police officer during the Occupy protests but that the charges were never brought to trial.

“I think it’s an egregious injustice and a miscarriage of justice,” said Gerald Felder, a lawyer representing two of the alleged victims, John Avitto and Fabian Hernandez. “These are two innocent, young men who were wrongfully charged.”

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CNN journalist Dylan Byers covered the 2011 Occupy protests and opened his investigation with two undercover videos that showed an undercover CNN reporter talking to protesters and watching videos that had been shot during the 2011 demonstrations in New York.

After byers confirmed the authenticity of the videos, a federal grand jury indicted eight defendants from Occupy Wall Street on 36 charges including assault on a police officer, rioting and disorderly conduct. One of the 32-minute videos that Byers analyzed depicted protesters trying to destroy police cars. Two officers, including one holding his baton, appeared to be struggling with the protesters. Byers revealed the video’s authenticity on 22 April 2012. The charges were dismissed in 2015 after finding no grounds for prosecution.

“When you put eight people in the same situation, you aren’t going to get an entirely accurate reflection of what actually happened,” Byers said. “In this particular case, I think you can clear the air. I think people are going to find it incredibly compelling and really quite moving.”

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