This weekend is the crazy weekend for Chicago. NATO is meeting about Afghanistan, protests are happening, nurses storm the streets demanding taxes on the rich wearing Robin Hood masks on, Iraq and Afganistan veterans are throwing away their medals in protest of the wars – and now, an attempt to trump it all, we have “terrorism” charges against some activists which are being met with swift denials and charges of “set up”.
Meanwhile, dozens of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars plan on leading a march of thousands on Sunday, May 21, alongside Vietnam veterans, and will be presenting their medals to NATO officials during. This anti-war march will proceed through Chicago’s downtown area to the convention center where NATO is holding its summit.
And of course, inside the summit will be President Obama and other world leaders. The City of Chicago is bracing for major protests. Organizers are hoping the rally, which caps a week-long series of anti-NATO actions, will draw thousands. The Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam veterans will hold a reconciliation ceremony with Afghans for Peace.
The veterans :
… are planning to pin their medals to the American flag, which they’d like to present to NATO officials. If they’re unable to do so, they may construct an ad hoc memorial or toss the medals toward the convention center — like some 900 Vietnam veterans did in 1971 on Capitol Hill in an anti-war protest dubbed “Operation Dewey Canyon III.”
(Editor: Somewhat ironically, Senator John Kerry, was a leader of that Vietnam vets’ protest. It is ironic because that action thrust him into the public spotlight for the first time. Later, during his campaign for president, he downplayed his anti-war roots. It was also somewhat tragic, because if he had, he may have energized an anti-war base that felt forgotten and catapulted him to the White House.)
Chicago Tribune / May 20, 2012 – 3:37 pm CDT
NATO Saturday began with police clearing commuter trains on the South Side and protesters walking through Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s North Side neighborhood. By early afternoon, a judge had set bond at $1.5 million bond for three protesters charged with a terrorism-related bombing scheme.
This afternoon and evening, drivers can expect intermittent closures on the Kennedy Expressway between O’Hare International Airport and downtown to accommodate dignitaries arriving for the two-day summit that starts Sunday at McCormick Place.
Hundreds of anti-NATO protesters joined demonstrators outside Emanuel’s Ravenswood home this afternoon, protesting the mayor’s planned cuts in mental health clinics as police kept close watch.
Police had instructed protesters that they could not stop in front of Emanuel’s home, resulting in hundreds sitting down in the middle of Hermitage Avenue, one house north of the mayor’s residence.
A smaller group eventually splintered off and stopped for about five minues in front of the mayor’s residence. Wearing hospital gowns, the group unfurled a banner saying “Healthcare not warfare.”
Some of the protesters took photos of themselves making peace signs with the mayor’s home in the background. Others stood in front of police lines, holding their protest signs and posing for photos.
The protesters then began moving, a few carrying bullhorns, chanting slogans that included “Hey Rahm. Ccome on out. See what America’s all about” and telling police, “I don’t see no riot here, take off the riot gear.”
Police were not wearing riot gear, but were wearing helmets with shields.
A few straggling protesters taunted one of the mayor’s neighbors as he sat on his porch with his black lab.
Bicycle-riding police officers used their bikes to act as crowd control barricades and some groups of marchers moved on to Lincoln Avenue, Irving Park Road and other nearby streets, sporadically stopping at intersections to sit down.
Most of the protesters marched from Horner Park, where families were playing with their children. Seeing marchers approaching, members of the Gordon Tech baseball team and their families scrambled to get out of the way.
The protest march unfolded on the North Side, while on the South Side at about 8:20 a.m., authorities stopped trains for about 90 minutes on the Metra Electric District line to allow canine units to check a suspicious package that turned out to be an empty suitcase. Two inbound trains were stopped around 115th Street. Investigators also stopped other inbound and outbound trains near 53rd Street. Police cleared the scene at 10 a.m.
At noon, an estimated 200 protesters gathered at Horner Park in preparation for a march on Emanuel’s home about two miles away. Those assembled were angry with Emanuel’s mental health clinic closures. Earlier Saturday morning, about a dozen protesters walked through Emanuel’s Ravenswood neighborhood.
Wearing a hospital gown over her clothes, N’Dana Carter told the Horner Park crowd that city resources and tax breaks benefitting corporations could be better spent keeping clinics open.
“When Rahm Emanuel says that no taxpayers paid for his $14 million party, he’s lying,” said Carter, a South Side resident who claimed corporations who bankrolled the NATO host committee benefit from their ties to the mayor at the expense of poor people.
Carter said she’s a patient at a mental health clinic that has experienced funding cuts, including the layoff of her own counselor.
Police were at the park to monitor the event.
The day’s biggest developments came at Cook County Criminal Court. Documents released shortly before an afternoon bond hearing for three out-of-state men arrested in a Bridgeport apartment alleged that the suspects considered hitting President Obama’s campaign headquarters, Emanuel’s house and police stations with “incendiary devices.”
The three – Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., are charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism and possession of an explosive or incendiary device.
Michael Deutsch, a lawyer for the three, said after the hearing the arrests were “entrapment to the highest degree” and “a way to stir up prejudice against people exercising their first amendment rights.”
Terrorism? Or Government Set Up?
Here are more reports and accounts of what has happened:
Anti-NATO Activists Charged With “Providing Material Support for Terrorism” in Apparent Retaliation for Calling Out Police Intimidation
By Lauren Kelley / AlterNet / May 19, 2012
Well this is a deeply screwed up story, even for someone who reads about police wrongdoing and unjust anti-activist measures all the time. Some anti-NATO protesters in Chicago have been arrested and charged with “possession of incendiary or explosive device, conspiracy to commit terrorism & providing material support for terrorism,” in apparent retaliation for being involved with a recent video that shed light on Chicago police intimidation practices.
Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola wrote a post late last night about how a group of activists were detained, with some of them released on Friday night:
Two of the nine activists arrested in a preemptive raid of an apartment in Bridgeport on the south side of Chicago were finally released Friday night. They joined four activists that were released earlier. Three activists remained in jail without charge.
The activists had been held without charge for close to thirty-six hours and had been disappeared by Chicago police on Wednesday night. They were moved from the Organized Crime Division to Kedzie-Homan in District 4 of Chicago.
Gosztola writes about how the activists, who had been part of a “Fuck the Police” march earlier in the week, were shackled, taunted, called “junkies,” and threatened with felony conspiracy charges after the home they were staying in was ransacked by police wielding guns. One activist said the cops “destroyed everything” in the apartment.
The activists may not be exactly saints — during the anti-police march they reportedly mocked and taunted police officers and angered residents. But it was a video that some of the activists were involved with, showing Chicago police threatening violence during the upcoming NATO protests and generally intimidating protesters, that may have gotten the activists in the most trouble.
In an update to his post, Gosztola describes what happened to the three activists who remained in custody Friday night:
The three activists that remained in jail have now been charged with “possession of incendiary or explosive device, conspiracy to commit terrorism & providing material support for terrorism,” according to the National Lawyers Guild attorney Sarah Gelsomino who is representing the activists arrested and disappeared in a night raid on Wednesday in Bridgeport, Chicago. (h/t @OccupyChicago)
As noted previously, the three activists remaining — Bryan Church, Jarred Chase, Brent Betterly — appear in the video posted of police threatening violence during the NATO summit. It now seems clear that police are charging them in retaliation for posting the video.
NATO Saturday: Trains, protesters, charges
Msnbc reports: Three anti-NATO protesters charged with terrorism conspiracy planned to attack four Chicago police stations, the local campaign headquarters for President Barack Obama and the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, prosecutors alleged in court Saturday.
While friends of the three men insisted they were just operating a home brewery, prosecutors stated that police found a gun that fires mortar rounds, swords, a hunting bow, ninja-like throwing stars and knives with brass knuckle handles.
The beer-brewing operation, prosecutors added, was used to fill bottles with gasoline that would later be thrown as Molotov cocktails.
“Plans were made to destroy police cars and attack four CPD stations with destructive devices, in an effort to undermine the police response” to attacks on the Obama office, the Emanuel home as well as unspecified financial institutions during the NATO summit this weekend, the charging statement said.
The men were identified as 22-year-old Brian Church, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; 27-year-old Jared Chase, of Keene, N.H.; and 24-year-old Brent Betterly, who told police he resides in Massachusetts.
The three are “self-proclaimed anarchists, and members of the ‘Black Bloc’ group,” prosecutors said, without elaborating.
Michael Deutsch, an attorney for the men, denied that and said the men and their friends were in Chicago to “peaceably protest.”
The three were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an explosive or incendiary device and providing material support for terrorism. Bond of $1.5 million was set for each defendant.
Defense attorneys told a judge on Saturday that undercover police were the ones who brought the Molotov cocktails, and that their clients were entrapped.
Deutsch later told reporters outside the courtroom that it was all a setup. Two informants “ingratiated themselves” with the three men and “this was all their idea,” he insisted, calling it “entrapment to the highest degree.”
But Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told reporters “the evidence speaks for itself” about what he called an “imminent threat.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the investigation began weeks ago and local authorities had the help of the FBI and the Secret Service.
“They are not peaceful protesters, they are domestic terrorists … these men were here to hurt people,” Alvarez said. “They were making the bombs … (and had) directions on how to implement this.”
The charging document states that “while the Molotov Cocktails were being poured, Church discussed the NATO Summit, the protests, and how the Molotov Cocktails would be used … At one point, Church asked if others had ever seen a ‘cop on fire’ and discussed throwing one of the Molotov Cocktails into” a police station.
“Church stated that he also wanted to buy several assault rifles, and indicated that if a police officer was going to point a gun at him, then Church would be ‘pointing one back’,” the document states.
Six others initially arrested were released Friday. They were all detained in a raid Wednesday on a home in Bridgeport on Chicago’s South Side, NBCChicago.com reported.
Overall, 14 people have been arrested in the lead up to the summit, McCarthy said. When asked if more arrests were expected, he said he was “not positive,” though he noted the investigation was ongoing.
But the group of protesters said what police thought was suspicious was actually a home beer-brewing operation.
“We were handcuffed to a bench and our legs were shackled together. We were not told what was happening,” one of those detained but later released, Darrin Ammussek, told NBCChicago.com. “I believe very strongly in non-violence, and if I had seen anything that even resembled any plans or anything like that, we wouldn’t have been there.”
He claimed that during 18 hours in custody, police never told him why he was arrested, read him his rights or allowed him to make a phone call, The Associated Press reported. He said he remained handcuffed to a bench, even after asking to use a restroom.
“There were guards walking by making statements into the door along the lines of ‘hippie,’ ‘communist,’ ‘pinko,'” a tired-looking Ammussek told reporters just after his release.
Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries, including 50 heads of state, will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense.
Among the pre-NATO protests was a march on the home of Mayor Emanuel by about 500 people on Saturday. The big show will be on Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, when thousands of protesters are expected to march 2½ miles from a band shell on Lake Michigan to the McCormick Place convention center, where delegates will be meeting.