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May 21, 2012

The Preemptive Prosecution of the NATO 5

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"Mo," the man alleged to be an FBI informant in terror case against NATO protesters (photo: NLG)

Two men were charged with terrorism-related charges on May 20, bringing the number of men who have been accused of planning “terrorism” against the NATO summit up to five people. The authorities claim their cases have no connection to the first three men, who were charged with plotting terrorism on May 19. However, attorneys for the men, who are the first to be charged with terrorism under Illinois state law, consider them to be connected because there were two individual infiltrators involved – “Mo” and “Gloves,” who helped the FBI, Secret Service and Chicago police ultimately make arrests of these people.

The cases break down as follows: Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire, and Brent Betterly, 24, who lives in Massachusetts, are each accused of  “possession of incendiary or explosive device, conspiracy to commit terrorism & providing material support for terrorism.” Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, who resides in Chicago, is charged with a felony offense of “falsely making a terrorist threat.” Mark Neiweem, 28, who also resides in Chicago, is charged with the “felony offense of solicitation for possession of explosives or explosive or incendiary devices.”

Each of these men has been labeled “anarchists” by the Illinois State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. They have been cast as “members of the ‘Black Bloc’ group, who traveled together from Florida to the Chicago area” and were prepared to commit “terrorist acts of violence and destruction directed against different targets in protest to the NATO summit—targets that include President Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and downtown financial institutions. Senakiewicz is characterized as an “anarchist” who was “upset with the lack of chaos in Chicago” and a member of the “Black Bloc.” (There are no specific details on Neiweem’s political views in the State’s Attorney’s proffer.)

Betterly, Chase and Church were each arrested in a raid on an apartment in Bridgeport, Chicago, late Wednesday night. Police broke down the door of the apartment with guns drawn. They proceeded to ransack the apartment. They turned every single bag and drawer upside down and seized property. They also destroyed a good amount of the property in the apartment by throwing it around.

The three were arrested along with eight other people. All of these individuals were taken in unmarked vehicles to the Organized Crime Division. The National Lawyers Guild had no idea where these people were. They were disappeared. Then, late in the afternoon, NLG attorneys were able to meet with arrestees for the first time and shortly after four people were released after arrestees were transferred to the Kedzie & Homan (District 4) station in Chicago. Two people were released on Friday night and then on Saturday the three men were hit with terrorism charges.

Only nine arrestees were jailed, even though eleven people had been in the apartment during the raid. The two individuals who went missing are believed to be “Mo” and “Gloves,” a man and a woman who the NLG says were the infiltrators.

The involvement of infiltrators has led the attorneys to suspect that the FBI, Secret Service and Chicago police department were all involved in an entrapment scheme. Michael Deutsch, lawyer for Church, believes the infiltrators met up with Betterly, Chase, and Church at the May Day demonstration in Chicago. He believes these infiltrators then went about trying to convince the three men to engage in a terror plot against the NATO summit. When they failed, the infiltrators planted materials for the authorities to find when they raided the apartment, making this case “worse than entrapment.”

The alleged plot hangs on the fact that Betterly, Chase and Church allegedly went to a BP gas station for gasoline that could be used in the production of “Molotov cocktails.” However, the attorneys for the three men have been shown no evidence of any “Molotov cocktails.” Instead, it appears the FBI, Secret Service and Chicago police want to claim a home-brewing beer kit could have been used to produce “Molotov cocktails” and, therefore, these men are “terrorists.”

The authorities assert the three men charged in the first plot intended to “destroy police cars and attack four Chicago Police district stations with destructive devices, in an effort to undermine the police response to the conspirators’ other planned actions for the NATO Summit.” The prosecutor claims defendants possessed and/or constructed “improvised explosive-incendiary devices” (IEDs) and “various types of dangerous weapons including a mortar gun, swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles.” But, these claims made at a bond hearing were all claims the attorneys for the three men heard for the first time. To Deutsch, the charges sound like completely “fabricated charges” that came from the work of “police informants and provocateurs,” which have been used against movements before.

As for the additional two men, NLG attorney Sarah Gelsomino finds the charges are “sensational, politically motivated, and meant to spread fear and intimidation among people protesting the NATO summit,” just like the terrorism-related charges against Betterly, Chase and Church. The charges are trumped-up charges based on fabrications, as the city has not shown any “actual evidence of criminal activity or any weapons, though prosecutors have callously made several serious criminal allegations.”

There are several abuses of authority that have transpired in the cases of these five men: the disappearing of arrestees after the raid; the refusal to show arrestees’ attorneys a search warrant; the detention of arrestees without charge for one day to two days before six were released without charges; the interrogations of the six released without charges that were intended to intimidate and force them to falsely confess or snitch on others in the movement; the refusal to show any evidence against the arrestees charged with terrorism prior to a bond hearing on Saturday and the decision by someone in the department to show police records on the arrestees to the Chicago Tribune so they could be turned into boogeymen ahead of the bond hearing.

The three men appeared in a video that went viral weeks before the NATO summit and showed Chicago police harassing them in Bridgeport. As NLG attorney Sarah Gelsomino describes:

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.

In the cases of the two men charged with terrorism on Sunday, both were held far longer than “their constitutional right to go before a judge within 48 hours. Senakiewicz was held for 68 hours before a hearing, without access to a phone or his attorney,” according to the NLG. Lawyers were unable to meet with Senakiewicz until the morning of his bond hearing. Nieweeem “was taken to the hospital at least three times” during the period that he was held without charge “ for vomiting and pain, but was not properly treated for his medical condition. According to the NLG, on several occasions Nieween was forced to choose between seeing his attorney and going to the hospital.”

And all of the people arrested in the raid had participated in a “Fuck the Police” march or anti-police rally in Bridgeport that was led by black-clad protesters or anarchists on Tuesday night.

*

The case of the three men first charged with “terrorism” is a classic case of entrapment. Making the men seem like “Black Bloc” anarchists was intended to spread fear because the majority of the American population agrees that anyone who is “Black Bloc” thinks violence is an acceptable tactic in protest. Any time violence occurs at an Occupy protest or demonstration, the media has jumped to labeling these people as “Black Bloc.” All violent protesters have been assumed to be anarchists.

Chicago business leaders, police and media incessantly repeated suggestions that people would be coming to Chicago to commit violence. Reuters took a weeks-old tweet that mentioned “Black Bloc” and made it seem like violent protesters would be laying low until the time was right to wreak havoc on Chicago. Businesses were boarding up out of fear that “a storm was going to hit” when protesters came to protest NATO. Police even bought new equipment for the protests because they hysterically believed “anarchists” might throw urine or feces at them.

People like David Frum for The Daily Beast helped amplify this hysteria with elitist nonsense about how Occupy activists could protest properly. In particular, Frum highlighted the “Black Bloc”:

Organizers of left-wing protests always present themselves as helpless to contain the violent margin, the so-called Black Bloc. Maybe. But that self-presentation would carry more conviction if they announced from the start their intention to cooperate with police. “If you break the law, we’ll turn you in ourselves and testify against you in court” is a message that would have powerful effect. The unwillingness to cooperate with police to prevent violence likewise sends a message about who you are, what you believe, and what your aspirations are.

This perception is what made it so easy for authorities to charge these men with bogus terrorism charges. Few would stand up and condemn authorities and risk being seen as sympathizer to people who are intent to allegedly commit violence to achieve political goals.

Authorities also had the NATO summit as a pretext for the terror charges. The presence of worldwide leaders in town made it possible to preemptively prosecute and remove people off the streets who authorities choose to target. People like Chicago police chief Garry McCarthy could say, “What would you have us do? Sit on our hands?” Most would not want the authorities to take a chance that someone might launch an attack and so it is easy for McCarthy to say these people posed an “imminent threat” and had to be arrested and charged. (He also could make the investigation seem ominous by refusing to talk about it.)

All the men have histories that make it easier to demonize them. In so-called “Black Bloc profiles” put together by the Chicago Sun-Times, Betterly is reported to have been ”charged in Broward County, Fla., with burglary to an unoccupied structure, grand theft and criminal mischief” back in October. Chase is reported to have been ”arrested in Dade County for loitering and petty theft, a misdemeanor.” Neiweem is known to have had mental disorders. They all with the exception of Church are the typical people the FBI would target in a politically-motivated operation to frame people up on charges.

At the time of this writing, the NLG has not been shown any of these materials that authorities claim the men intended to use to commit “terrorist acts of violence.” What the NLG has heard are allegations that these individuals said things that indicated they intended to commit violence.

The “material support” statute has been used to preemptively prosecute a number of Muslims. In the case of the NATO protesters, the authorities appear to be criminalizing speech or statements that were made by protesters in private to infiltrators that took these statements back to authorities and shared what they thought these people said to them.

The cases of the five NATO protesters are not unlike the five men who were accused of being involved in a bomb plot to blow up a bridge on May Day. They, too, were described as anarchists. While the arrests and charges did not happen together, like the Cleveland 5 the intent seemed to be to chill dissent ahead of a major event.

Recall, in Cleveland, groups canceled May Day demonstration plans after the FBI announced five connected with the Occupy movement were accused of terrorism.  The Cleveland 5 was another case of the FBI “inventing terrorists.”

A distinct parallel between the five NATO protesters and the RNC 8 preemptively arrested ahead of the Republican National Convention is also clear. The FBI used an informant named “Brandon Darby” to infiltrate the group and eventually charge the eight activists with terrorism-related crimes. Authorities then claimed to have recovered Molotov cocktails. But, the terrorism-related charges were eventually dismissed. Three activists had their cases dismissed. The other five pled guilty to misdemeanors.

Preemptive policing has become permissible conduct for law enforcement. As Perlstein noted in his coverage of the Cleveland 5 case, the media no longer condemns this sort of policing when it did in the 1970s. The people of America have also changed, making it easier for the federal authorities to target people:

…Entrapment is illegal  – but the question of whether law enforcement set up a legal sting or illegal entrapment is for a jury to decide. Entrapment was why juries acquitted the defendants in the Camden, VVAW, and Harrisburg cases. “How stupid did those people in Washington think we were?” a Harrisburg juror told a reporter. The feds don’t have to worry about folks like that any more. Not a single “terrorism” indictment has been thrown out for entrapment since 9/11 – not the Liberty City goofballs supposedly planning to blow up the Sears Tower who had no weapons and refused them with offered; not the Newburgh, New York outfit whose numbers included a schizophrenic who saved his own urine in bottles. (Even the judge who sentenced them said “the government made them terrorists.”)

The reality is that once the State gets a person and attaches a terrorist indictment to their name there is little chance that person will have be able to go about their business as a normal person again. There is little chance that person won’t do some time or be convicted of some charge, whether it be a lesser charge like a misdemeanor. That person is guaranteed to move on after the fact with a criminal record that is all a result of being involved in a movement that promotes ideals that are deemed despicable by the State.


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