50.8 F
Bellingham
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Western student, alumnus of “Whatcom Three” found guilty

By Melissa McCarthy

Western student Josefina Alanis-Mora and Western alumnus Thomas Kaplan were found guilty of disorderly conduct on Wednesday, Oct. 10 for obstructing traffic in protest of President Trump’s rally in Lynden in May 2016. The two members of the locally-known “Whatcom Three” protesters were charged with ten days in jail, or alternatively serving ten days labor on the jail’s work crew, and $500 worth of combined fines and legal fees, Kaplan said.

“We’re both really taken aback,” Kaplan said.

Alanis-Mora was in tears after the judge announced the verdict and declined to comment at the time.

(left to right) Defense Attorney Lawrence Hildes defends Josefina Alanis-Mora and Thomas Kaplan of “The Whatcom Three.” Kaplan and Alanis-Mora were found guilty of disorderly conduct on Wednesday, Oct. 11 in Whatcom County District Court, Bellingham Wash. Photo by Dan Thomas.

Kaplan said the pair had based their case on a defense of necessity, legally defined as a situation in which the defendant asserts they had no choice but to break the law. Kaplan said they believed by blocking traffic, they would prevent greater harm.

“We honestly believed that we were preventing violence at the rally, that we would prevent the growth of hate groups here in Whatcom County,” Kaplan said.

Within the court chambers, Kaplan and Alanis-Mora were not allowed to present that case to the judge and the jury was not allowed to consider it.

He went on to describe that these beliefs proved to be warranted and said the reality is even worse than he could have imagined.

“Our fear was that there was going to be violence at the rally. There was violence at the rally,” Kaplan said. “We were worried that first it would be Trump’s rally in Lynden and next there would be torch-lit marches going down the street. And unfortunately we’ve seen that exact thing happen. It’s been tragic.”

Kaplan said the defense brought in expert witnesses on hate groups and the growth of fascism that were not allowed to speak during court.

“When I look back at the time before Trump had been elected president, I regret that I didn’t do more to stop him,” Kaplan said.

On May 7, 2016, Alanis-Mora, Kaplan and Neah Monteiro were arrested by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office for barricading the northbound lanes of Washington Highway 539. An estimated 200 to 300 cars were stopped along north-bound lanes of Guide Meridian, Whatcom County Patrol Deputy Keith Brown said.

The Whatcom Three linked their arms together with PVC pipes and chained themselves to ladders. Two cars stood between the group and oncoming traffic as a barrier.

Monteiro did not appear in court with Kaplan and Alanis-Mora.

Kaplan said that he did not expect jail time to be part of the conviction.

“I’m very surprised that we would be convicted to jail time considering that we held up traffic for 30 to 45 minutes,” he said.

Kaplan said he considers this a symptom of a larger societal problem in which officials are quick to throw people in jail for minor crimes.

“[The judge] is ready to sentence us to jail time when we already have an extremely overcrowded, underserviced jail — a jail that holds people that don’t need to be there,” Kaplan said.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey there, Thomas Kaplan here.
    I would add somewhere that we will be able to serve our 10 days in the jail alternatives program on the jail work crew. We’re not going to be required to stay in the jail although that is our sentence.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3,961FansLike
1,241FollowersFollow
5,466FollowersFollow
0SubscribersSubscribe

Must Read

Behind the systems: WWU Newman Center forced resignation of student employee after learning of same-sex partner

Student says she was told to break up with her girlfriend or quit her job

Resident advisers hold open forum with university officials to discuss concerns

Written by: Bram Briskorn and Questen Inghram Over 300 people packed into Arntzen Hall, room 100 as if it were...

Sports: Pros and cons of Seahawks’ NFL draft pick Malik McDowell

Why did the Seahawks go after a defensive tackle with their first selection in the 2017 NFL draft? Coming off...

Latest News

No Stage? No Problem!

Starting at the top and from left to right, Walden Marcus, Madeleine Cooper, Gabi Gilbride and...

COVID-19 restrictions cripple Bellingham travel industry

The Bellingham Cruise Terminal on Sunday, May 17. The Alaska Ferry was form of transportation that was put on hold...

Bellingham Public Schools navigates remote learning challenges

Devices at Bellingham Public Schools being prepped for delivery to students to aid in remote learning. // Photo courtesy Bellingham Public...

Looking forward to live music post-COVID-19

Analog Brass performing at their first show in 2018. // Photo courtesy of Maxwell Lemke By Riley Currie

Western becomes first university in U.S. to offer palliative care minor

Western’s main campus is adding a new palliative care minor starting fall quarter. // Photo by Sophia Galvez

More Articles Like This