To avoid court trials, all many arrested members of Occupy Los Angeles have to do is pay $355 … for a course on free speech. Protesters who opt to take this route will apparently learn that "the First Amendment is not absolute," as a city attorney explains, adding that the Supreme Court has granted the government the power to regulate the use of free speech in certain circumstances. But considering the fact that arrested demonstrators were exercising "their lawful right to protest nonviolently," one civil rights attorney who has worked with them tells the LA Times that the class is "patronizing."
And not just patronizing, but ironic, say protesters, who are not happy about being asked to pay hundreds of dollars to a private company when they have been protesting against corporate greed and privatized public services. Of the 350 arrested in the last three months, only those who have no criminal history and who were arrested on low-level misdemeanors will be eligible to participate in the educational program; if they complete it, the city won’t press charges. This alternative process will save the city money, though LA won't see any of the $355 fee; the company offering the class keeps the dough. (Read more Occupy Wall Street stories.)