UPDATE – 3:19 AM ET 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.
Gelsomino stated to the press that the charges were very upsetting. She called them “nebulous” and “trumped up” charges. She added that the NLG has not spoken to anyone involved in the investigation. An officer told them that each of these three men have been charged tonight.
“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,” she declared.
Gelsomino described the video for the press:
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 charges came when it was 2 am in Chicago. They likely knew they would issue these charges around 9 pm when two activists were released. But since authoritarianism or police repression works best under cover of the night, they waited until very late in the night to issue charges.
It is important to recall that back in 2008, prior to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, eight activists were preemptively raided and ultimately charged with “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.” The national security state has a script, and when it comes to “National Special Security Events,” they stick to that script pretty well.
The three activists will appear in bond court tomorrow at noon at 26th & California.
(h/t OccupyPDX for video of Gelsomino’s statement to the press)
Original Post –
Victims of Night Raid Describe Being Disappeared by Police Ahead of NATO Summit
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. [cont’d.]
Dan, one of the activists, described a horrifying experience where he had been held for a “number of hours” but did not know how long exactly because the police did not ever give the activists the time. They were not charged at any point during their detention, but Dan says he was threatened with felony conspiracy charges.
The police held them as long as they did so they could get them to falsely confess or snitch on someone in the movement, Dan adds.
Officers were rude. They would not provide the activists information on why they were being held in custody. They would not make a differentiation as to whether they were being detained in custody or whether they were under arrest and charged with something. The limbo was held over the activists’ head to terrify them and make them say something the police could use against activists here to protest NATO.
The activists were shackled. They were taunted and called junkies, terrorists and told they smelled. One officer reportedly told one of the activists, “You don’t be a jackoff, I won’t be jackoff.”
In detention, they were fed White Castle, McDonald’s and then bologna sandwiches.
The two describe how they were arrested. Dan says he and others were about to go to sleep when they heard a bunch of loud footsteps coming from the backyard. There were a lot of flashlights so they knew it was the cops.
The activists were faced with an “onslaught of guns,” as the police busted down the inner door and tripped over a guy that was sleeping in the kitchen and roughed him up a bit. They came in with guns pointed at the activists’ faces and were screaming so they couldn’t really understand what they were saying. The activists froze and waited for them to give commands.
Police ransacked the home, throwing property. A watermelon and printer was thrown. They were dumping clothing and material out of bags. One of the arrested activists says police “destroyed everything.”
In Robert’s case, he was not in the apartment when it was raided. He had headed to the CVS Pharmacy nearby to get some beer and was arrested there. The CVS Pharmacy closed for police and then after Robert was arrested it reopened. Somehow the police knew to come arrest him.
Robert explains he had just gotten into Chicago and had hitched a ride from Gary, Indiana. He was brought to the apartment and then ended up being arrested at the CVS forty-five minutes later.
“I haven’t stayed anywhere except for in the custody of Chicago’s finest,” Robert said.
The activists were taken to the Organized Crime Division in unmarked vehicles. They were split up. The two released didn’t know what was happening with the three activists still in custody.
Split them up several hours ago so didn’t see the other three still in custody.
What is important to note is that all the activists arrested were part of the “Fuck the Police” or anti-police march that took place on the south side of Chicago on Tuesday night. They marched on the streets of Bridgeport and wound up making some of the residents angry. They also taunted and messed around with police that were trying to control them with bicycles and keep them off the streets.
Additionally, the three activists that remain in jail are in the video of three Chicago police officers pulling them over in Bridgeport on May 9. The video, which went viral, features police questioning protesters and threatening them ahead of the NATO protest. They search the protesters’ vehicle and threatened “pre-emptive police violence against those” who planned to attend the NATO summit protests.
One officer can be heard in the video saying, “We’ll come look for you, each and every one of you.” And, the police also say the now infamous lines among occupiers:
CPD Officer 1: “You like that, he knows these guys know, ’68. You guys know all about ’68. What did they say back in ’68?”
CPD Officer 2: “Billy club to the fucking skull.”
This whole episode is likely police intimidation, harassment and retaliation yet Chicago police chief Garry McCarthy won’t talk about it.
Finally, there are also numerous tips streaming into the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) of police swarming areas near homes where activists are staying. Police are clearly engaged in efforts to terrorize activists that have come to exercise their First Amendment rights and raise their voice against NATO.
The 48-hour deadline to charge the three activists still in police custody or release them is approaching. The police have until the afternoon tomorrow to charge the three activists or they will be breaking the law and the NLG will launch a legal challenge.
The effort to chill protest, however, is only invigorating protesters. No groups have canceled their plans to protest and promote messages of peace, justice and economic equality. No one has shifted their agenda for the NATO summit to focus primarily on the police. They instead are keeping the focus on NATO and renewing their commitment to showing the world that not all US citizens consent to the agenda and operations of the global military arm of the 1%.