NEW YORK – A Manhattan Criminal Court judge dropped charges Wednesday against 227 protesters arrested during the Republican National Convention after prosecutors said they would have difficulty proving the case.

Assistant District Attorney William Beesch told Judge Katherine Fried that the demonstrators might have been confused by instructions given by cops.

Beesch said it would have been difficult to prove that the protesters “were deliberately defying police directives or were intentionally acting in a disorderly manner” just before police raised nets around them and ordered them cuffed.

In a carefully worded statement, Beesch defended the arrests, noting that police had good “reason to believe” that the group intended to “violate the law” on Aug. 31 by marching without a permit.

But he said things got murky near the World Trade Center site, the beginning of the unauthorized march, when cops told protesters they could have a “safe march” if they stayed on the sidewalks.

“The police likely created the impression … that the march had official sanction,” Beesch said.

“Once informed they were under arrest, the defendants remained civil and followed the directives of the police, who also behaved in a professional and restrained manner,” Beesch told the judge.

Martin Stolar, president of the city chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said the dismissals will not deter lawyers from filing a federal civil rights lawsuit this month on behalf of those arrested.

In a statement, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly asserted that “police officers acted with restraint and professionalism throughout, an assessment shared by the district attorney’s office.”

(c) 2004, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-06-04 2201EDT

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