SANTA CRUZ – Two men facing charges in connection with the takeover of a former bank are slated for a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Their attorneys say the men are photojournalists and were working in that capacity when the alleged violations took place.
Alex Darocy, Bradley Stuart Allen and nine other people are charged with two felony counts of vandalism and conspiracy, and two misdemeanor counts of trespassing. The charges stem from the takeover of the building at 75 River St. late last year. In that incident, a group claiming to be acting “anonymously and autonomously” but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz remained in the building for nearly three days before leaving peacefully.
Darocy and Allen, who pleaded not guilty to the charges last month, are photojournalists who have done work for a number of outlets, including Santa Cruz Indymedia, according to defense attorneys George Gigarjian and Ben Rice.
Allen has worked as a freelance photojournalist covering social issues for more than a decade, Rice said. His attendance of Occupy protests in Santa Cruz were in the capacity of a photojournalist, with the sole purpose of documenting events through his photography, he said.
Likewise, Girgarjian says his client was documenting a news event.
“Alex is an established photojournalist and we’re in the position that he was there in that capacity,” Gigarjian said of the charges.
Rice has reached out to the National Press Photographers Association, of which Allen is a member.
Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the organization, said he has been dealing with similar situations around the country as dozens of journalists have been swept up in mass arrests at protests.
“I think the normal tension between the police and the press has been exacerbated by the Occupy movement,” he said, adding that the organization is hoping the court will dismiss these charges.
Gigarjian and Rice opted to split off their defendants from the nine other defendants for the purpose of the preliminary hearing. The rest of the defendants are scheduled to begin their hearing in April.