By Kevin Gosztola
Three Occupy activists raided on May 16 and disappeared for a period of time by Chicago police were brought before a bond judge this afternoon and officially charged with material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession of explosives or explosive or incendiary devices.
The State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez asked for bail to be set at $5 million for the three men who had come from out-of-state to protest the NATO summit. The judge set the bail at $1.5 million. Each of the charges are felony charges.
The case marks the first time that state prosecutors have used the Illinois Terrorism law to prosecute individuals.
The prosecutor accused Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire, and Brent Betterly, 24, who lives in Massachusetts, of planning 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 claimed 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.”
Alvarez alleged the activists were “self-proclaimed anarchists and 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.
She claimed the three men had proposed targets that included “the Campaign Headquarters of President Obama, the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and certain downtown financial institutions.”
The details presented by Alvarez were all part of a “public safety investigation” that began in early May and was conducted with assistance from the FBI and Secret Service.
The details consisted of allegations and claims about the three activists that had not been shared with National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attorneys representing the arrestees until the bond hearing.
Michael Deutsch of the NLG and People’s Law Office in Chicago was in court to represent Church. He said the NLG questions the charges against these men from top to bottom. He said the three men had told NLG attorneys “had no intent to commit any criminal violent act.”
In fact, Church had been going to Broward Community College to become an emergency medical technician (EMT).
In Illinois, a person has to post 10% of the bail to get out of jail.
“Obviously these people do not have the resources to post bail,” Deutsch said. “For the near future, they will be in until we can get a real bail hearing, which explains these outrageous claims that the State’s Attorney read.” He added the NLG believes the charges are “fabricated charges” and they are “based on police informants and provocateurs which is a common pattern that we have seen against people who are protesting.”
During the bond hearing, Deutsch called the accusations against Church “propaganda.” The State’s Attorney claimed Church “wanted to recruit four groups of co-conspirators (16 people) to conduct the raids, and that reconnaissance had already been conducted at CPD Headquarters located at 3510 South Michigan Avenue for the purpose of a planned attack.”
The prosecutor claimed to have Church on the record saying the “city doesn’t know what it is in for during the NATO summit. And things will never be the same.”
They claimed the activists had gone to a BP station at 31st & Halsted to get gasoline for Molotov cocktails and that they had Church on record saying, “Have you ever seen a cop on fire?”
“All of these things are surprises to us,” Deutsch explained. “All the charges were in the newspaper this morning but other than that all the specifics” were presented to the arrestee’s attorneys during the hearing for the first time. The attorneys had yet to see a search warrant for the apartment that was raided.
Deutsch called the investigation, targeting and raid of these activists “worse than entrapment.” According to the NLG, two police informants infiltrated the group. The NLGE believes “they’re the ones who provoked this and they’re the ones,” who committed the “illegal activity” and had the “illegal materials.”
Additionally, they said the informants didn’t provide the materials and convince the activists to engage in some plot.
The activists did not take the bait. The informants simply left the materials in the apartment ahead of the raid so the materials would be there for police to find.
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