25 May 2012

Defend Anti-NATO Protesters!


MAY 21—Over 10,000 people marched in Chicago yesterday as part of a week of protests against the annual summit meeting of the U.S.-dominated NATO imperialist military alliance. This gathering of war criminals, hosted by U.S. Commander-in-Chief Obama in his hometown, takes place against a backdrop of the now decade-long U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan and last year’s bombing of Libya, not to mention the ongoing austerity forced on working people. Down with NATO!

To shield NATO’s bloody imperialist rulers from justified outrage, Obama’s former henchman and current Democratic mayor Rahm Emanuel imposed a state of siege on Chicago. In the months leading up to the protests, Emanuel rewrote city ordinances to limit the rights of demonstrators, including by placing sweeping restrictions on permits. In one case, National Nurses United, whose members are facing a wage- and benefit-slashing offensive, was forced to cancel a march it had planned to accompany its rally.

Thousands of National Guardsmen, active-duty troops and deputized cops from as far away as North Carolina descended on the city. Police brutally attacked protesters, with arrests now totaling 90. Afterward, Obama praised the Chicago Police Department and the mayor, saying they “did wonderfully.”

As part of their effort to intimidate demonstrators and justify the massive show of police force, on May 16 the Chicago cops raided an apartment that housed out-of-town protesters, arresting the residents and charging three for a supposed “terrorist plot.” The men remain in prison in a clear case of entrapment. Two of those living in the apartment were either police informants or undercover cops. “It really is pretty playbook,” said Sarah Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild, which has provided legal counsel to the three men. “The police engage in this kind of conduct—very sensational charges and preemptive raids of activists in what we believe to be really an attempt to intimidate people to stop them from protesting.”

A YouTube video posted by the “NATO 3” prior to their arrest captures how the Chicago cops greeted protesters. With squad cars surrounding their vehicle, one officer invoked the police riot against protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He asks, “What did they say back in ’68?” Another cop replies: “Billy club to the f---ing skull.”

The NATO 3 are the first ever charged with violating Illinois state’s anti-terror statutes, which were enacted after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Here is another example of how the “war on terror,” which initially victimized Arab and Muslim immigrants, set into motion repressive measures ultimately meant for leftists, trade unionists and black people. It is in the interests of the working class to defend these men and all anti-NATO protesters against state repression.

The military adventures of the imperialist butchers abroad always come packaged with domestic repression at home. The U.S. capitalist ruling class that devastated Iraq and Afghanistan and is now unleashing its thugs in blue on protesters in Chicago is also responsible for grinding down working people nationwide. Struggle against U.S./NATO’s murderous occupations must be linked to a fight against the capitalist system that inevitably breeds war and depredation. Only through workers revolution can that system be swept away.

We reprint below a May 21 letter by the Partisan Defense Committee—a legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—to the State’s Attorney.

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The Partisan Defense Committee protests the police attacks on the demonstrations against the NATO summit in Chicago and arrest of over 50 protesters. The massive police mobilization and frontal assault on civil liberties accompanying the summit are directed against labor, leftists, antiwar activists and others who simply seek to exercise their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly.

On May 16, with no warrant but guns drawn and battering rams swinging, the Chicago police stormed an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Nine people were arrested. Three—Brent Betterly, Brian Church and Jared Chase—face charges of “conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism, and possession of an explosive or incendiary device.” The arrests came less than a week after the accused “NATO 3” had posted on YouTube a video of an officer threatening them: “We’ll come look for you, each and every one of you.” Outrageously, each is being held on a $1.5 million bond and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted!

The arrests of Betterly, Church and Chase have all the earmarks of a classic case of police entrapment and provocation. According to their attorneys, the allegations were trumped up by informants, who may have been undercover agents, living with them at the time of the police raid. Since then, two other political activists, Mark Neiweem and Sebastian Senakiewicz, have been arrested on terrorism-related charges, reportedly based on accusations by the same police informers. A spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild rightly described these charges as an “effort to frighten people and to diminish the size of the demonstrations.”

We demand that all the charges be dropped! Hands off the anti-NATO protesters! 

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1003, 25 May 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.