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Highway protesters accept plea deal
21 plead guilty to misdemeanor

The trial of 23 people arrested last summer during protests against the Minnesota 55 
reroute project came to an end on the first day Monday with a plea agreement to a 
petty misdemeanor.

After singing and speeches in the atrium of the Hennepin County Government Center in 
Minneapolis during the morning, 21 protesters accepted a plea agreement in the 
afternoon. Charges against the other two were dismissed.

Those who entered a plea were given the choice of a $50 fine or eight hours of 
community service.

``There are no criminal records from this, and you can't put them on probation and 
demand they can't get arrested for that kind of thing again,'' said Jordan Kushner, 
attorney for the entire group. ``That is very important because they still want to 
defend the trees and not have to worry about jail time hanging over their head if they 
do that again.''

The highway opponents were arrested and charged with obstructing traffic and 
disobeying police during a July 27 demonstration at Hiawatha Avenue and Minnehaha 
Parkway in South Minneapolis. The arrests took place when protesters walked into the 
middle of Hiawatha Avenue, linked arms and sat down on the pavement.

The defendants had planned to represent themselves in a mass trial, but Hennepin 
County District Judge Richard Sherer ruled Monday morning that any defendants acting 
as their own counsel would have to be tried separately. The alternative was for the 
defendants to be represented in a single trial by Kushner, who has handled the 
protesters' legal battles for more than a year.

Jim Anderson, a leader of the protesters, said he was happy with the plea agreement.

``I think it worked out great for the taxpayers and for us,'' Anderson said.

Highway opponents held a rally in the courthouse atrium before court proceedings and 
returned for singing during the lunch recess.

Many of the defendants are part of an encampment that has occupied land in the route 
of the highway for the last 15 months. A spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol said 
plans are under way to clear the camp before the end of the year.
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           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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