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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibet Bridge Protesters' 'Punishment' Familiar

June 9, 2008

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross
The San Francisco Chronicle SFGate (USA)
June 8, 2008

The three protesters who scaled the Golden Gate Bridge and unfurled
"Free Tibet" banners while suspended 150 feet over traffic a couple
of days before the big Olympic torch run in April will have all the
charges against them dismissed once they complete 25 hours of
community service.

Thanks to a decision by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala
Harris' office, the three were eligible for pretrial diversion and
community service - and the court officials in charge of picking the
community service sent them to Students for a Free Tibet.

Shouldn't be too onerous, since the three were already affiliated
with the group when they climbed up the bridge's suspension cables April 7.

"That's beautiful," said a not-too-happy John Moylan, president of
the Golden Gate Bridge District Board of Directors.

"There could have been a collision with all of the distractions they
caused," Moylan said. "They put our workers in jeopardy. It was a
very dangerous situation. They should have been prosecuted to the
full extent of the law."

That's just what the California Highway Patrol asked the D.A. to do -
press felony conspiracy charges against climbers Mac Sutherlin, Duane
Martinez and Hannah Strange, plus their helpers who were arrested on
the ground.

The D.A.'s office, however, wouldn't play ball.

"In my estimation, that doesn't rise to the level of felony conduct,"
said Chief Assistant District Attorney Russ Giuntini. Instead, the
D.A. filed misdemeanor charges against the climbers and nothing
against their helpers.

Defense attorney Mark Vermeulen, a 24-year veteran of defending
protesters who worked on the case, says all three climbers were
experienced and knew exactly what they were doing.

"They wouldn't have done it if they had thought there was a danger,"
Vermeulen said.

As for the fear that they could have caused an accident on the
bridge, or that bridge workers who were sent up to remove the banners
might have been hurt?

"I suppose one would have to concede that it is always possible - but
it didn't happen," Vermeulen said.

Harris' office said prosecutors lacked the evidence to prove that the
three climbers and their cohorts had conspired together, although
according to CHP Capt. Bob Morehen, the D.A. pulled the plug on a
felony case while CHP investigators were still trying to get that evidence.

As a result, the three climbers were charged with misdemeanor
trespassing, creating a public nuisance and resisting arrest. And
since all three were eligible for pretrial diversion, the charges
will be dropped once they complete their 25 hours of community
service with their pro-Tibet group.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Morehen, who has been around San
Francisco for some time. "Does it surprise you?"
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