CHICAGO — The six undocumented immigrants who were arrested last August 17, 2011 were found 'not guilty' of all charges. Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco (24), Fanny Lopez-Martinez (22), Jorge Mena (24), Arianna Salgado (19), and Carla Navoa (22) were facing State and City charges of blocking traffic, mob action, and reckless conduct. Cook County Judge Peggy Chiampas declared that the prosecutors had not met their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that therefore the protesters were found not guilty of all charges.
"I'm glad that we tested the system, as undocumented youth, and found community support," said Jorge Mena, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League. "However, Secure Communities is still being enforced and we need to continue bringing attention to how it is putting people into deportation proceedings and tearing families apart," he added.
The undocumented activists also expressed excitement over the court's decision, as well as frustration over the length of the proceedings. "While I'm excited that we were found not guilty, I was disappointed at how long the city and the state dragged it out without getting their information straight," said Mena. His comment is in reference to two separate occasions when police officers did not show up to court to testify, which led to continuances of the trial, as well as several changes and amendments to the charges.
On her part, Lopez-Martinez added, "After 7 months of court dates we won the case! After I heard the judge's decision I felt that not only our commitment and courage were recognized, but also our movement's cause," she explained.
Before announcing her decision, Judge Chiampas stated that she also too came from an immigrant family, and understood the need for people to take actions like these in order to be heard. She also added however, that she believed people have a right to go about their day without protesters blocking the streets. In response, defendant Martinez added, "The choices of her words used to describe our action were confusing, but I'm glad that in the end she was able to see it from our point of view."
This is the first action of civil disobedience by undocumented immigrants in the history of the U.S. where all participants have been declared 'not guilty.' The action took place as a collaboration between the local undocumented immigrant led organizations, the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), Nuestra Voz, and the Latin@ Youth Action League (L@YAL). The Chicago 6 were represented by Janine Hoft, a lawyer with the People's Law Office, which has also represented protesters from the Occupy Chicago, and other social justice movements.