Prosecutors Monday decided not to press charges against Princeton University professor and activist Cornel West and 18 others who were arrested Sunday for protesting at the Supreme Court.
The protesters were accused of breaking laws forbidding parades and displays on Court grounds, but the U.S. Attorney’s office decided not to charge them.
West and others were released from D.C. Superior Court after spending one night in jail. West, at times wiping away tears, hugged each arrestee as they emerged from the courthouse.
“I am blessed to be a small part of this movement,” said West to perhaps two dozen supporters and protesters from the Occupy DC group of protesters. “We are trying to change the world.”
Many of the protesters gathered cheering and playing drums outside the courthouse. Several held up signs that said “We are the 99 percent.”
Joining West was Raheem DeVaughn, a District native and Grammy-nominated R&B crooner. DeVaughn, 36, said he joined the protest for his mother who is struggling to receive Social Security benefits and his father who is fighting cancer.
DeVaughn said being arrested for civil disobedience on the day set aside for the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. national memorial, as well as the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March, was poignant.
“It was worth the 24 hours spent in jail for a just cause,” he said. “Dr. King spent his life and died for his dream so that we can have our right. In fact, 24 hours was not enough time.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson caused a minor stir in the courthouse lobby as he arrived to show his support for West and the protesters. When West emerged from the courthouse he and Jackson embraced.
“Good to see you, brother,” West said to Jackson.
As he waited for West to emerge, Jackson said Congress would support the protesters’ goals “if these protests continue to remain disciplined, non-violent and focused.”
“At some point the occupation will become legalization,” said Jackson.