Prosecuting students in Round Rock

Posted in Williamson County at 1:02 am by dembones

Off the Kuff caught a story in the Houston Chronicle from Monday, “Round Rock teens’ protests head to court.” After handing out more than 200 citations during March immigration rallies to local teens for breaking Round Rock’s daytime curfew, prosecutors convinced 80 to plead guilty or no contest.

The prosecutions have outraged civil rights groups, attorneys and some local residents who say the city seems more concerned with protecting its tough-on-crime image than the students’ rights. They note that they haven’t heard of any other towns prosecuting student protesters.

Texas Civil Rights Project is representing many of the remaining defendants and is focusing national attention on the extreme measures taken in Round Rock to curb dissent. A total of 82 trials will clog the courts for the next several months, but many are expected to be dismissed. Two trials set for June 30 were dismissed last week due to insufficient evidence to prove the defendants weren’t exercising their first amendment rights.

Eye on Williamson is late to this story which has been percolating for several weeks. On March 17, the AAS reported:

Many of the 98 students who pleaded not guilty said they believe jurors will uphold their free speech rights in the series of trials from June to November. The students, and Texas Civil Rights Project lawyers representing at least 80 of them, argue that the curfew ordinance includes exemptions for free speech and free assembly.

The television news was also all over this back in May. The Round Rock Leader reported:

Ernest Saadiq Morris, staff counsel with the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project, said the court will likely need the entire year to try the cases that he expects to last two to three days each. Morris represented 80 students at the arraignment Tuesday and was asked to represent another 25 more by the end of the day. “We’re looking at 75 to 100 trials by the Texas Civil Rights Project, which we’re prepared to handle because it’s a freedom of speech issue. We’re prepared and will hopefully win most of them, if not all of them, and, hopefully in the future, the city won’t think it can disobey its own laws,” he said, referencing the city’s daytime curfew that lists exercising First Amendment rights as a defense to violating the curfew.

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