Occupy Atlanta helped bail one of its protesters out of jail Monday, saying he did not assault a police officer as charged.
Brandon Wojcik-Tremblay was among 20 demonstrators arrested early Sunday morning during an impromptu march down Peachtree Street. Police say Wojcik-Tremblay knocked an officer off his motorcycle, but representatives of Occupy Atlanta claim the APD officer provoked a confrontation. The 23-year-old is the first person associated with the group charged with a felony; he was released late Monday on $7,000 bond.
“Brandon was just trying to stop the cop from accelerating,” said Tim Franzen, a spokesman for Occupy Atlanta. “He was the one hit by the motorcycle. The plain fact is the [officer] was not injured or assaulted.”
Franzen said Wojcik-Tremblay sustained a sprained wrist after being hit by the motorcycle, adding his back was “covered with bruises.”
“We believe the charges accurately reflect what transpired,” Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos told the AJC Monday.
Campos also defended the arrests of three journalists covering the march. AJC reporters were among those notified by Campos before Sunday’s arrests and on Oct. 25 — the night of the first Woodruff Park raid — that anyone, including news media, found in violation of city ordinances faced arrest.
However, Campos said he did not believe that he conveyed that message to the three photographers — two working for student newspapers, the other, an intern for Creative Loafing — jailed Sunday. And several people who were on the scene Saturday night and early Sunday morning said warnings from police instructing everyone off the street and onto sidewalks were difficult to hear amid the chaos.
“The department was not targeting journalists or any other particular group,” Campos said. “All violators were arrested. Our focus was to clear the streets in the interest of public safety, both for pedestrians and motorists alike.”
Creative Loafing editor-in-chief Eric Celeste said the weekly was troubled by the arrest of photographer Stephanie Parr but “was not going to make a big deal of it.”
“She was just trying to do her job and … got caught in the middle of it,” Celeste told the AJC. “It does look like police overreacted a little bit.”
“We do think it was indicative of a larger problem with the way the city has been handling [Occupy Atlanta],” Celeste said.
Meanwhile, the Student Press Law Center on Monday asked Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Monday to investigate the treatment of the two student photojournalists arrested.
“The students spent about 14 hours in jail each and were issued citations for the offense of ‘obstruction of traffic‘ in violation of the Atlanta City Code – even though they were standing on a street that police had closed off to traffic,” said a statement issued by the SPLC.
Among the others jailed Sunday morning: a minister, college professor and a Grayson man who said he was not with the group and had just departed from a nearby restaurant when he was handcuffed.
Only Wojcik-Tremblay, arrested three times in 2010 by Gwinnett County police for failure to appear in court, shoplifting and disorderly conduct, faces serious charges. His next court hearing is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m.
All of the other people who were arrested were released from jail Sunday on signature bonds.
By Christian Boone
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution