Pass for protest: Monsanto 10 found not guilty in activist event
‘Gamesmanship’ doesn’t pay off for Yolo DA
Without needing to hear a word from the defense, a Yolo County judge found nine protesters innocent of “loitering” near Monsanto’s Woodland seed facility during a demonstration last summer.
Dubbed “the Monsanto 10” in the activist community (one died before the court hearing), the protestors blocked an entrance to the largest seed facility in the world on May 22, 2017, over its production of chemical agents like Roundup, as well as genetically-modified food.
Defendants were initially charged with resisting arrest and unlawful assembly. When the district attorney lowered the charges to infractions, the group lost the right to court-appointed attorneys. Defendants called that move, along with the failure to release certain documents, “gamesmanship” on the part of the DA’s office.
“We weren’t loitering; we were there with a specific interest to peaceably assemble and use our freedom of speech,” said defendant Bob Saunders of Sacramento. “While all these horrors are going on, people are getting sicker and sicker.”
Two of the protestors ended up getting pro bono defense attorneys through the National Lawyers Guild. Those attorneys fought to get the entire case dropped for lack of evidence.
Judge Paul Richardson ultimately declared the government hadn’t sustained its burden of proof. No images of the protest were recorded, and sheriff’s deputies couldn’t identify most of the defendants from memory, Saunders said.
“I still believe more evidence could be produced,” Saunders said. “If I was a rich senator’s son, something would turn up.”
Saunders attended a similar protest at the biotech giant’s research headquarters in 2015, when protesters attempted to block cars and none were arrested.