Three young activists who came to Chicago to protest against the NATO Summit in May were singled out by the police and now face trumped-up charges of terrorism. Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly face 11 counts. If convicted under previously unused Illinois anti-terrorism laws, they could face up to 85 years in prison.
Before they were arrested, these political activists were stopped by the Chicago Police Department. The police illegally searched the trunk of their car. The young men say that as police searched the car, they made comments threatening the young activists.
The officers joked about the famous acts of brutality in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The officers laughed as they said, among other things, “Do you guys know ’68? ... Billy club to the f—king skull.” The officers joked about racism and brutality: “Take race out of it … we’ll beat your white ass.” They also said that at the upcoming anti-NATO protests, “We’ll be looking for each and every one of you.” (opednews.com, June 18)
This exchange, in which CPD members revealed their twisted and sadistic nature, was recorded by one of the youth. A video of the incident was soon up on the internet.
Six days after the video was posted, cops raided the apartment where these activists were staying. Eleven of the people staying there were arrested and held for 68 hours before the authorities brought any charges. At the time of the raid, two police infiltrators, going by the monikers of “Mo” and “Gloves,” were staying at the apartment.
Prosecutor Anita Alvarez made clear the political nature of her prosecution by numerous times pointing out that the men were “anarchists” and linking them to the “Black bloc.” In the apartment raid, the police discovered equipment for making beer. Alvarez now claims this equipment was intended for making Molotov cocktails.
Terrorism charges used to spread fear and anger
Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the National Lawyers Guild, pointed out how unbelievable this claim is: “No Molotov cocktails or other incendiary devices have been used at any political demonstration in the U.S. in recent memory.”
Hermes observed that the charges were “the unfortunate consequence of the city’s desire to create a hysteria around so-called terrorism charges.” She noted that the arrests were intended to “discredit the NATO demonstrators and perhaps diminish the number of people on the streets protesting.”
Michael Deutsch, the lawyer representing Brian Church, described how the three men are being held in isolation. Not allowed any reading or writing material, they are being held in “hospital white cells” for 24 hours a day. They are not allowed to see any other prisoners or each other.
While NATO often bombs and destroys countries using the excuse of “human rights,” three young men who dared protest NATO’s crimes are now being held in conditions described as “inhumane” and “torturous.”
Hypocrisy is nothing new for NATO and its armed servants. The organization Doctors Without Borders has refused to work with the new NATO-installed government in Libya, as it also is engaging in acts of torture and inhumanity against those who oppose it.
The activists have pleaded not guilty. A team of expert and experienced attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild has mobilized to defend them.
There is a great deal of hope that these charges can be defeated. The recent victory in the Carlos Montes’ case and the state of Pennsylvania’s ultimate failure to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal after decades of trying show that mass mobilizations of the people can be key in halting repression. Such mobilizations can also force the state to drop the charges against these young people.
The facts of this case and others like it are revealing many truths to the thousands of youth who are now becoming politicized. They show that the police and the state cannot be trusted or won over as “friends” of the 99% movement.
According to an article in the June 25 Occupied Chicago Tribune, “Occupy groups around the country are calling for an international day of solidarity with the detained NATO protesters for July 2, the day of the arraignment.”
The youthful movement is showing that its struggle against the 1% also includes a struggle against their government and police apparatus.