Suspected NATO Protesters Harassed by Police and Charged as Terrorists
May 20, 2012 AntiWar.com & The Chicago Sun-Times
Wednesday night's bizarre warrantless raid on an apartment building in Chicago and the rounding up of a number of "suspected protesters" took another turn for the odd today, when officials revealed that three of the captives are now being charged with terrorism.
Police Intimidating NATO / Occupy Protestors in Chicago
Three Suspected NATO Protesters Charged as Terrorists Jason Ditz /AntiWar.com
(May 19, 2012) -- Wednesday night's bizarre warrantless raid on an apartment building in Chicago and the rounding up of a number of "suspected protesters" took another turn for the odd today, when officials revealed that three of the captives are now being charged with terrorism.
The new charges, which took over two days to actually be revealed, are related to the seizure of beer-making material in the apartment building. Prosecutors now say that the empty bottles were going to be filled with gasoline and used as Molotov cocktails.
Michael Deutsch, the lawyer for the three detainees, says that they were all non-violent protesters and that of the people "arrested" that night (most of whom were released without charges) two were actually undercover police there to "egg on" the protesters to move from non-violent to violent action.
"We believe it is a set-up, an entrapment to the highest degree … to discredit the protesters who have come here to non-violently protest," Deutsch added. The prosecutors insisted that all three were "anarchists" and "domestic terrorists."
The National Lawyers Guild, which initially brought the raid and detentions to public attention, says that the three "terrorists" were in a car pulled over last week, and posted a video online of Chicago police harassing them about their planned protests. Police threatened to "beat their white ass" during the video, and vowed to "find them" at the protests. Police say that stop was "unrelated" to the sudden terrorism charges.
Chicago Police Smashed Up Apartment, Captured Suspected Protesters
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 18, 2012) -- Update: Officials revealed that at least two of the "suspects" being held were undercover police, while three people were charged as "terrorists" for possession of beer-making material, on the assumption that they could theoretically fill empty beer bottles with gasoline and use their bandanas to light them on fire.
With an upcoming NATO summit in the next few days, Chicago police are taking the opportunity to kick down doors and arrest "suspected protesters" in a bizarre series of night raids that appeared to occur entirely without warrant.
The National Lawyers Guild reported that police attacked an apartment complex in Bridgeport late Wednesday night, smashing down the doors, tackling tenants and berating one suspected of planning to participate in a public protest against the summit, describing him as a "Commie faggot."
The captive "suspects" were eventually led off in chains, and the guild says search warrant for the apartment, which wasn't even written until several hours after they broke the doors down, was never signed by a judge.
The "suspects" were marched out to a police station where they remained, for over 30 hours, shackled at the hands and feet. Police initially responded to inquiries about the raid by denying that it had ever happened, and saying that they weren't holding anybody. Later, they eventually admitted that they had captured the "suspects," and said four of them were later released without charges. The other captives are being held pending a bond hearing, though it is still not clear what, if anything, they have been charged with.
Incredibly, Chicago officials are still refusing to comment on the details of the raid, and the States Attorney declined to say what the charges would be, saying that it was "still developing."
The Obama Administration was seen as extremely keen on crushing any visible dissent at the Chicago summit, and at one point Illinois was even said to be considering opening a special prison for all the detainees they planned to capture.
'NATO 3' Plotted Attacks on Obama Election HQ, Rahm's House, Police Stations, Prosecutors Say
Frank Main, Michael Lansu, Kim Janssen and Mark Konkol / Chicago Sun-times
(May 19, 2012) -- A band of out-of-state "domestic terrorists" was accused Saturday of planning to attack President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home -- and firebomb police stations and squad cars -- declaring that after the NATO Summit "the city will never be the same," police and prosecutors said.
One of the conspirators warned: "The city doesn't know what it's in for," prosecutors said.
But undercover Chicago Police officers infiltrated the group of NATO Summit protesters in recent weeks. They were with the protesters while they allegedly made Molotov cocktails -- bottles filled with flammable liquid that are used as firebombs, sources said.
"We have people watching them do it," one law enforcement source told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The trio includes Brian Church, 22, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. Each was ordered held on a $1.5 million bond Saturday.
They're charged with possession of an explosive or incendiary device, conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support to terrorism. Federal charges are possible, but unlikely, sources said.
County prosecutors said they were using an anti-terrorism law passed by the state Legislature in the wake of the 9/11 terrorism attacks.
"We believe it's the first time it's been used in the state of Illinois," said Alvarez's spokeswoman, Sally Dally.
Prosecutors alleged the three men "traveled to Chicago to commit acts of domestic terrorism during the NATO Summit."
But outside court, defense attorney Michael Deutsch told reporters the case was "a Chicago Police set-up ... entrapment to the highest degree."
Deutsch said three undercover police nicknamed "Nadia," "Mo" and "Gloves" befriended his clients on May 1.
Deutsch said two of the people arrested in the operation were actually undercover Chicago cops.
The undercover officers "egged on" the protesters, Deutsch said.
"From our information the so-called incendiary devices and the plans to attack police stations ... that's all coming from the minds of the police informants and not coming from our clients, who are non-violent protesters," he said.
The defendants are already being referred to as the "NATO 3" by supporters. The term #NATO3 is trending on Twitter.
They were described by prosecutors as anarchists who considered themselves part of the "Black Bloc" movement that's wreaked havoc at past global gatherings.
"They are domestic terrorists," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. "These men were here to hurt people."
On Wednesday, members of the Chicago Police Department's Organized Crime Division raided a Bridgeport apartment at 1013 W. 32nd Street where the protesters were staying, seizing four Molotov cocktails and arresting nine people.
They executed a "no knock" search warrant that allows officers in extraordinary circumstances to enter a home without first knocking and identifying themselves as police, authorities said.
The officers seized a mortar gun, swords, a crossbow, a throwing star, ninja knives, knives with brass-knuckle handles and written plans for the assembly of pipe bombs, prosecutors said.
The alleged anarchists planned to use torn bandanas jammed into gasoline-filled beer bottle bombs as wicks, prosecutors said.
They allegedly planned to attack four police stations with the Molotov cocktails in hopes of slowing down the police response to the higher-profile attacks.
Asked if the planned actions on the Obama headquarters in the Prudential Building and Emanuel's North Side home were intended to be violent, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said: "They weren't going to go trick or treating."
"This represents a victory -- not a failure -- in preventing something from happening."
Prosecutors cast Church as the ringleader. He allegedly said he wanted to recruit 16 people -- split into four cells -- to conduct the attacks.
Church allegedly said he wanted to buy several assault rifles so that if a police officer pointed a gun at him he could "point one back."
The conspirators bought gasoline for the firebombs at the BP station at 31st and Halsted -- across the street from the Deering District police station, prosecutors said.
Church asked fellow protesters if they had ever seen "a cop on fire" and suggested throwing a firebomb at the station at 3120 S. Halsted in the Bridgeport neighborhood, prosecutors said.
Police conducted court-authorized electronic surveillance of the apartment, sources said. The FBI and Secret Service helped analyze computers and cell phones seized from the apartment, prosecutors said.
Deutsch, the attorney for the trio, told Judge Edward Harmening the undercover officers were the ones trying to draw the others into illegal activity.
"We believe it is a set-up, an entrapment to the highest degree ... to discredit the protesters that have come here to non-violently protest," Deutsch said.
"They're not anarchists," he said of his clients. "They are not members of the Black Bloc organization. . . . This is a way to stir up prejudice against the people who are exercising their First Amendment rights," he said.
Another defense attorney, Sarah Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild, claimed "police broke down doors with guns drawn and searched residences without a warrant or consent" at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. But prosecutors insisted that the officers were executing a legal search warrant signed by a judge.
Gelsomino also said there was a pattern of harassment against the men. They were previously pulled over by Chicago cops while in a car near a CVS pharmacy and questioned about their protest plans, she said.
"All three of these guys, interestingly, were in the car about a week ago that was stopped and harassed by the Chicago Police Department," Gelsomino said. "They then posted video online in an attempt to expose that police misconduct. Each of those three are now being charged with these crimes."
A police source said the traffic stop was conducted by beat officers unconnected to the terrorism investigation.
The three men were among nine people collared Wednesday night in the raid on the Bridgeport apartment building, Gelsomino said. At least two other people were arrested later in connection with the case, she said.
Six of the original nine arrested were released without charges Friday, Gelsomino said.
Betterly and Chase were involved in other scrapes with the law in recent months, Florida court records show.
Betterly is facing felony charges in Broward County, Fla., for allegedly breaking into a high school with two other men and having a tequila-fueled pool party. They allegedly damaged the property with stolen fire extinguishers.
Chase was convicted of theft in Dade County, Fla., in January, records show.
"He told me he was going to be protesting," said an uncle, Michael Chase, of New Hampshire. "He gets a little carried away and does a little elbow bumping with police but certainly nothing like you're describing. "... I'm quite shocked. He's not above doing dumb things but nothing like this."
Contributing: Natasha Korecki
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