Spokesmen charged as accomplices in bridge protest

Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 1998

SEATTLE - Two former Greenpeace spokesmen have been charged as accomplices for talking to reporters during a demonstration in which group members dangled from the Aurora Bridge to protest overfishing off the coast of Alaska.

David Batker and Fred Munson of Seattle were charged in April by City Attorney Mark Sidran with accomplice liability for aiding, abetting and encouraging the acts of the protesters.

Harish Bharti, the attorney representing the two men, said Tuesday he has ``never heard of anybody being charged in this country for talking to the media. They are spokespeople and that is their job.''

Batker said he was ``quite shocked'' by the charges. He said he and Munson were below the bridge talking to reporters as protesters hung from the bridge by ropes in an effort to block Alaska-bound factory trawlers from leaving Lake Union.

Greenpeace wants the huge factory trawlers banned because the organization says they take too many pollock, a source of food for other marine life, including the endangered Steller sea lion.

Assistant city attorney Mike Finkle said Batker and Munson were accomplices because of the statements they made to print and television reporters.

According to court papers, Batker's statements to the media included: ``If a factory trawler tries to leave, they will lower themselves to block. We hope that a trawler is not going to try to run the line and put people in harm, but they are willing to risk themselves. We have certainly stopped them from leaving today, and that's very important.''

``We have a valid case for accomplice liability,'' Finkle said.

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