Coachella Valley ‘Occupy’ Protesters Plead Not Guilty To Unlawful Assembly Charges

INDIO (CBS) — Four people pleaded not guilty Thursday to misdemeanor charges stemming from arrests at Occupy Coachella Valley protests in Palm Desert.

Palm Desert residents Mary Elizabeth Walker, Dustin David Powell, Stephen Mark Finger and Palm Springs resident Ryan Donald Cartwright pleaded not guilty to unlawful assembly at their arraignment at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Cartwright also pleaded not guilty to two counts of resisting or delaying a peace officer.

A fifth defendant, Jack Lee Noftsger III, is scheduled to be arraigned on a charge of unlawful assembly on Jan. 17, and his four co-defendants are due back in court that day for a pre-trial hearing.

Charges were filed on Wednesday.

The five were arrested with several other people on Nov. 1 for allegedly camping illegally at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park, and later released from custody.

Members of the group had been in the park since Oct. 24 as part of the nationwide Occupy movement, meant to draw attention to what demonstrators say is the growing gap between rich and poor.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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