At about two in the morning on Saturday, May 19, 2012, Chicago police announced that three of the remaining activists in their custody from a warrantless arrest on early Thursday morning would be charged with possession of explosives or incendiary devices, material support for terrorism, and conspiracy.
Sarah Gelsomino with the NLG and the People’s Law Office is representing the activists facing charges, identified by the Washington Post as Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24.
UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune reports that police claim the arrests are the culmination of a month-long investigation into molotov cocktail making. The Tribune also reports that two other people were arrested in separate incidents, also on suspicion of making petrol bombs.(h/t Kevin Gosztola)
“The National Lawyers Guild deplores the charges against Occupy activists in the strongest degree. It’s outrageous for the city to apply terrorism charges when it’s the police who have been terrorizing activists and threatening their right to protest. Preemptive raids meant to intimidate and stifle dissent are all too common during National Special Security Events, such as the NATO summit,” Gelsomino said.
The Post spoke with one of the six released activists, who expressed shock at the charges.
One of those protesters, Occupy activist Darrin Annussek of Philadelphia, denied there were Molotov cocktails in the apartment or that raw materials had been compiled to make them.“No way,” Annussek said. “If I had seen anything that even resembled (a Molotov cocktail), I would have left.”He claims 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. 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 Annussek told reporters just after his release.
The three young men facing these serious charges were the same people who posted online a video of a traffic stop wherein police interrogated them about their plans for NATO and made violent threats. Some observers think the arrest is retaliation for the posting of the video, available below.
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While this smells similar to the RNC 2008 molotov cocktail charges, Chicago police have produced no actual evidence of bomb making or illegal activity in the case of the NATO three. UPDATE: At the bail bond hearing, prosecutors said police had evidence that the three were building petrol bombs out of empty beer bottles, but supporters and lawyers for the NATO 3 say that it was in fact a police informant who planted this evidence at the scene.
An FBI informant played a key role in the convictions of the RNC activists in 2008, but no FBI role has yet been divulged in the Chicago case. UPDATE: The FBI was reportedly involved in surveiling the three since "early May," though an FBI agent told the AP that the agency had no evidence of "credible threats" to Chicago or the summit.
UPDATE: The Chicago Sun Times reports that one of the three facing charges, Chase, was to return to New Hampshire next week for his father's memorial service. Stories about abuse in jail are starting to come out, as well. One of the six activists released "said he was held at one location for 18 hours without access to a bathroom. Some protesters soiled themselves before they were moved to the Harrison District, he said."
UPDATE: Police say they have arrested a fourth person on suspicion of plotting an attack against the NATO summit.