A group known as the "Philly 10" were acquitted of disorderly conduct charges on Wednesday at a summary trial. The group members were arrested while protesting for the release of video of the fatal shooting of Brandon Tate-Brown and the names of the officer involved.
Ironically, the decision came one day after their demands were partially met.
Mayor Michael Nutter ordered the public release online of records from the investigation Tuesday.
The records were also requested by Tate-Brown's mother in a lawsuit filed against the city demanding that it comply with police reforms ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice in a recent report.
"If it wasn't for you, the names Heng Dang and Nicholas Carelli wouldn't be out there," Tanya Brown-Dickerson told the protesters outside of court after the hearing.
Surveillance video of the shooting was also released and posted online by Brown-Dickerson's lawyer.
"The struggle continues," Asa Khalif, one of those acquitted, said outside of court. "Now we are asking for that officer [Carelli] to be prosecuted."
Carmen Spoto, Scott Williams, Joseph Quinn, Earl Pittman a.k.a. Asa Khalif, Durmel Coleman, Caleb Gallus, Rufus Farmer, Mallori Malachi and Megan Malachi sat in a courtroom packed with about 50 supporters for a multi-hour hearing before they were acquitted by Judge Joyce Eubanks.
The 10 were arrested on March 19, after a raucous protest (see video below) in the Lawncrest Recreation Center during a community meeting to discuss police issues. D.A. Seth Williams and Commissioner Charles Ramsey were also in attendance at the meeting.
Earlier that day, Williams had announced that his office would not file charges against the officers involved in Tate-Brown's death on Dec. 15, calling the shooting "a tragedy, not a crime."
Tate-Brown was fatally shot by 15th District police officer Nicholas Carrelli after Carelli and his partner Heng Dang stopped Tate-Brown's car on Frankford Avenue in Mayfair around 3 a.m. Police and prosecutors have maintained that Tate-Brown was running for an illegal gun the officers spotted in his car when he was shot.
Testifying for the prosecution, Lt. Joseph O'Brien of the Civil Affairs Unit, who was present during the March 19 protest, described a chaotic scene in which several of the defendants were standing at the table where Ramsey and Williams were seated chanting and shouting.
As Civil Affairs Units officer formed a protective barrier and asked the protesters to step back, an altercation started, O'Brien testified. But he did not see how it was initiated. While he saw "melees" going on around the room, he did not testify to any assaults or specific crimes by any of the defendants.
"These activists engaged in noble activism ... The police overreacted," defense lawyer Michael Coard argued, noting that disorderly conduct statutes call for activity that "serves no legitimate purpose."
In contrast, he argued, the protesters gave Ramsey and Williams paper with their demands written on it, including for the release of surveillance tape of the shooting, the names of the officers involved and for an independent investigation of the officers.