San Francisco's District Attorney's Office has dropped its effort to obtain Twitter account information about two demonstrators facing criminal charges as a result of an Oct. 6 protest that turned violent.
District Attorney George Gascon confirmed his office's withdrawal of the subpoenas, which had sought posted messages and Internet connections of the two protesters, Lauren Smith and Robert Donohoe, according to San Francisco Examiner newspaper.
The subpoenas sparked objections from civil rights advocates, and were withdrawn after the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a brief requesting dismissal on First Amendment grounds.
Nineteen people were arrested at the Oct. 6 protest, apparently marking the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in New York, and charged with a variety of misdemeanors, including inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, resisting arrest and assaulting cops.
Smith and Donohoe were among those arrested and charged, the newspaper said.
All 19 are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 8.
Occupy Wall Street was last year's massive sit-in in Manhattan, where demonstrators pitched tents and camped in Manhattan to protest economic inequity, that sparked a national movement that spread to major California cities.
Occupy San Francisco protesters camped out for months at the eastern end of Market Street, the city's main street, and Occupy Oakland demonstrators took over the downtown plaza in front of Oakland City Hall.
Occupy protests also took place last year in other San Francisco Bay Area cities including San Jose, Santa Rosa, Walnut Creek and Redwood City.
During pretrial proceedings, San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Laura Claster requested all messages filed by Smith (@laurenriot) and Donohue (@robbiedonohoe) before they closed their Twitter accounts, and all users that followed or were followed by them, the newspaper said.
But the ACLU and EFF filed court papers characterizing the subpoenas as an overly broad "fishing expedition" that could inhibit protesters' free speech rights.
"Government surveillance of what we say -- even when we say it in a public setting like Twitter but then decide to delete it -- can have a chilling effect on speech," ACLU attorney Linda Lye said.
An EFF attorney told the newspaper that the city should have filed search warrant requests that would have had to been reviewed by a judge before being issued.
“I have no idea why they issued these subpoenas,” Nate Cardozo said.
“A subpoena is just plain not the way to get that info.”
Gascon's office declined to comment on whether it would refile the subpoenas or request search warrants, the newspaper said.
Twitter was not available for comment.
Twitter allows users to post anonymously and protects their identities, but typically cooperates with requests from courts or from law enforcement agencies.
Writer Nathan Salant has hundreds of articles posted on Examiner.com, an independent website.