NATO Protesters Charged with Terrorism Possibly in Retaliation for Videotaping Cops Threats of Violence
Three men arrested during a raid by Chicago police earlier this week will face terrorism charges on Saturday. Authorities say the men tried to make Molotov cocktails to use during protests of this weekend’s NATO summit in the city. Each of the men are being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail. But are the charges actually trumped up to retaliate for one of the men videotaping Chicago police ahead of the NATO summit as they threatened protesters with violence?
They were scheduled to be in court later Saturday for a bond hearing on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an explosive or incendiary device and providing material support.
Police identified the men being held as Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24.
Attorney Sarah Gelsomino told reporters that the three men are “absolutely in shock and have no idea where these charges are coming from.” Six other people were arrested in the raid, but were released Friday without being charged. One of those six, Darrin Annussek of Philadelphia, denied that there were materials in the apartment to construct incendiary devices when the police made their raid.
According to Gelsomino, beer-making equipment was among the items seized by federal agents, and in the video above, items that could be beer-making equipment are shown, although it's not clear if what is pictured is the actual confiscated items.
The National Lawyer's Guild issued the following statement on Thursday regarding the raid (See full statement at the link):
Chicago, IL -- The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) condemns a preemptive police raid that took place at approximately 11:30pm Wednesday in the Bridgeport neighborhood, and instances of harassment on the street, in which Chicago police are unlawfully detaining, searching, and questioning NATO protesters. The Bridgeport raid was apparently conducted by the Organized Crime Division of the Chicago Police Department and resulted in as many as 8 arrests.
According to witnesses in Bridgeport, police broke down a door to access a 6-unit apartment building near 32nd & Morgan Streets without a search warrant. Police entered an apartment with guns drawn and tackled one of the tenants to the floor in his kitchen. Two tenants were handcuffed for more than 2 hours in their living room while police searched their apartment and a neighboring unit, repeatedly calling one of the tenants a "Commie faggot." A search warrant produced 4 hours after police broke into the apartment was missing a judge's signature, according to witnesses. Among items seized by police in the Bridgeport raid were beer-making supplies and at least one cell phone.
"Preemptive raids like this are a hallmark of National Special Security Events," said Sarah Gelsomino with the NLG and the People's Law Office. "The Chicago police and other law enforcement agencies should be aware that this behavior will not be tolerated and will result in real consequences for the city."
It has also come to light that over a week before the NATO summit, police had threatened the now arrested men with violence, and adding that they would "come look for you, each and every one of you.” The exchange was captured on video and posted to Youtube, which follows below along with transcription of the conversation.
Gelsomino told the press about that videoed incident:
"They were driving in a car and were pulled over without any kind of justification or reason by the Chicago police department. They were surrounded by police and they were questioned for a very long period of time about what they were doing in Chicago, why they were here to protest, what their political affiliations were, how they identified politically—all kinds of absolutely outrageous questions that certainly do not indicate any kind of illegal behavior because it is not constitutional simply to accuse them of a crime because of a political belief."
The video text says:
“Three CPD Officers from vehicle #656 and others pull over a car in Bridgeport, Chicago and begin questioning its passengers about Occupy Chicago and [the] NATO protest before threatening pre-emptive police violence (at 2:15min) against those who attend NATO to protest.”
The following can be heard listening to the video with NewsPowerTV text identifying the individuals speaking:
CPD Officer 1 – “Yeah, they say something about a big rally or protest coming up next week I heard.”
CPD Officer 3 – “Oh? Is there? Okay that’s fine. You guys got something planned for next week?”
Passenger – “Not really.”
CPD Officer 3 – “Nothing? No plans on the nothing horizon?”
Passenger – “Nothing on the horizon.”
CPD Officer 3 – “Nothing on the horizon? No? Nothing?”
CPD Officer 4 – “I’m a nice guy. People don’t think so. You know why? They see this,” pointing to shoulder patches according to NewsPowerTV.
CPD Officer 4 – “No reason?”
Passenger – “We were just turning around, man.”
CPD Officer 4 – “That’s private property.”
Passenger – “Wow.”
CPD Officer 1 – “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”
Someone is heard asking, “Are you video taping this?”
CPD Officer 5 – “What’re you doing here?”
Passenger: “We’re here, going to go to Occupy Chicago.”
CPD Officer 1 – “They denied it, but he came up to me, goes, ‘Oh yeah. We’re with Occupy Chicago.’”
One of the passengers Is heard saying as the car is searched, “Hey, man, if you find money in this car, let me know.”
CPD Officer: “That covering your face still on the books, Sarge?”
CPD Officer 1 – “You like that. He knows. See, these guys know, ’68. You guys know all about ’68?”
CPD Officer 1 – "What did they say back in ’68?"
CPD Officer 2 – “Billy club to the f—king skull.”
Passenger – “You know that was a race issue, right?”
CPD Officer 1 – “No. Take the race out of it.”
Passenger – “You know that was.”
CPD Officer 1 – “No. It was not.”
CPD Officer 3 – "Okay. Now we’ll beat your white ass.”
CPD Officer 1 – “Wait for the protest day. Save it all. Save it all for that.”
Passenger – “We’ll see you at NATO.
CPD Officer 1 – “Can’t wait.”
CPD Officer 1 – “We’ll come look for you, each and every one of you.”
“Charging these people who are here to peacefully protest against NATO for terrorism when in reality, the police have been terrorizing activists in Chicago, is completely outrageous,” Gelsomino asserted.
[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include the set bail information.]