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Activist Communiqué: Occupy Chicago activists arrested over alleged terrorist plot

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Days before the May 20, 2012, NATO Summit in Chicago, in a midnight raid, Chicago police kicked down the door of activist Zoe Sigman's apartment, arresting nine activists and confiscated what Sigman described as "beer making equipment."

Three of those nine men from Occupy Chicago - now known as the ‘NATO-3' - have been charged with providing material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and possession of explosives or incendiary devices.

The NATO-3 (Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly) are accused of plotting to use Molotov cocktails to firebomb Obama's campaign headquarters, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house, and other financial institutions during the NATO Summit.

Authorities reported they recovered numerous weapons from the scene, including, "improvised explosive or incendiary devices, a mortar gun, swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles."

Brian Church (22) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase (27) of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Betterly (24) of Massachusetts all arrived to participate in Occupy Chicago. The three were assigned a lump sum bail amount of $1.5 million dollars (US). Since all three men reported no income, this ensures they will remain behind bars pending trial. They face up to possibly 85 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.

The preliminary hearing on the NATO-3 has been pushed back to June 12, 2012, to give prosecutors more time to assemble a case against the three men.

Two more men from Occupy Chicago were later arrested and charged with allegedly planning to make explosive for the NATO Summit, but these two men - Sebastian Senakiewicz (24) and Mark Neiweem (28), both from Chicago - were originally reported as having no connection to the NATO-3. Later court documents showed that there was a connection between these two men and the NATO-3 in their relationships with two police informants: "Mo" and "Gloves".

Thus adds a slit to both terrorism cases that share police informant members.

In both cases, defence attorneys and members of the activist communities are claiming the five arrests were the result of police entrapment by the informants to nail community activists before the NATO Summit to manage the tone of the later demonstrations.

Occupy Chicago has accused the police of infiltrating their movement in order to entrap activists and cause division within their community.

Occupy Chicago members have shown their support to the NATO-3 with some going so far as to call the NATO-3 martyrs.

According to CNN reports from NATO-3's bail hearing, "A couple dozen of their supporters in the courtroom could be heard faintly scoffing at prosecutor Matthew Thrun as he called the defendants ‘self-proclaimed anarchists ... making preparations for violence and destruction.' Thrun said one of the defendants could be heard planning an attack and quoted him as saying, ‘this city does not know what it is in for, and it will never be the same.'"

"The charges are utterly ridiculous. CPD [Chicago police department] doesn't know the difference between home beer-making supplies and Molotov cocktails," Occupy Chicago member Natalie Wahlberg told the Tribune

Immediately after the arrests, a spokesperson for the National Lawyers Guild told reporters that the house that was raided contained supplies for home-brewing beer; not explosives.

Suspicions are raised around the arrests.

"Between the Molotov cocktails, the terrorism charges, and the involvement of informants, the NATO 3 case is surfacing up memories of the RNC trial-and concerns that convicting people for their ideologies and planning informant-influenced plots might be a sustained pattern," wrote Shay O'Reilly of Campus Progress.

The NATO-3 are being represented by Michael Deutsch of the National Lawyers' Guild who has raised the red flag over police informant entrapment as the basis for the Chicago police's case. At a press conference on May 19, 2012, Attorney Michael Deutsch told the press, "We believe these are fabricated charges based on police informants and provocateurs."

Deutche further laid out the case that his clients, "rejected the informants' suggestions to make bombs. When that tactic failed, the informants planted the materials seized as evidence in the apartment shortly before the police raid."

He also commented that while ‘Mo' and ‘Gloves' were picked up by the police from the apartment that night, they were released immediately after the raid.

In a later National Lawyers' Guild press release, "These additional charges related to terrorism are sensational, politically motivated and meant to spread fear and intimidation among people protesting the NATO summit," said NLG attorney Sarah Gelsomino. "The city has still not produced any actual evidence of criminal activity or any weapons, though prosecutors have callously made several serious criminal allegations."

Also, concerning the arrests, according to Campus Progress, a week before the arrests, the NATO-3 uploaded a video to the Internet of police officers threatening them with violence at the impending summit. There is speculation that the police acted in retaliation for the video.

With the preliminary hearing pushed back to June 12, 2012, and those arrested unable to afford bail, we will have to see what evidence the state will provide in this case to back up its charges and find out what role "Mo" and "Gloves" have to play in the whole affair.

 

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