21 February 2014

Framed-Up Protesters Face 30 Years

Free the NATO 3!

CHICAGO—In an attack on the right to political protest, Jared Chase, Brent Betterly and Brian Church, known as the NATO 3, were by a Cook County jury on February 7 on two frame-up felony counts of possessing Molotov cocktails and two misdemeanor “mob action” charges. The three were victimized in a sting operation as part of the cops’ efforts to quash protest against the May 2012 gathering of NATO imperialist war criminals in Chicago. Prosecutors had tacked on bogus charges of “conspiracy to commit terrorism,” which the jury rejected, giving the state a partial setback. Nevertheless, Chase, Betterly and Church, who have been imprisoned on $1.5 million bail, now face possible 30-year prison sentences.

This was a chemically pure case of police entrapment. From start to finish, the real instigators of the purported plot were the cops. Undercover agents Nadia Chikko and Mehmet Uygun infiltrated the Occupy group with whom the defendants, who had driven up from Florida, were bunking. The agents provocateurs hatched a plan, pushed it forward and assembled some Molotov cocktails, goading and dragging Betterly, Church and Chase along at every step. Despite two weeks of intense surveillance, not a single piece of evidence was produced pointing to the NATO 3 as the ones who assembled the Molotov cocktails (made from beer bottles), as charged in the indictment. The setup was undertaken as Democratic mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy whipped up an atmosphere of fear-mongering and hysteria leading into the NATO summit, assembling a massive display of police power to intimidate protesters (see “Defend Anti-NATO Protesters!” WV No. 1003, 25 May 2012).

The defense noted that the Molotov cocktails “were always in possession of the under-cover police who suggested their own provocative ideas for how to use the bottles.” The “evidence” submitted by the state was Church’s fingerprints from a bottle supplied by the cops, who plied the defendants with liquor. It appears that the only actual evidence of law-breaking was the purchase of alcohol for minors by the police. And among the “weapons” presented by prosecutors was a seven-foot piece of plywood with the words “Austerity ain’t gonna happen” painted on it and a slingshot, the latter allegedly to be used for breaking windows at Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters.

Even the conservative Chicago Tribune (25 January), which was hostile to the anti-NATO protesters, expressed skepticism about the purported evidence against the three. Oozing with contempt for the defendants, the article stated that “the portrait that emerges from undercover recordings and courtroom testimony isn’t of a deadly terrorist cell looking to spark widespread fear but of bumbling young men led by a stoner trying to impress a female police officer on her first undercover assignment.” Once the verdict came down, the Tribune declared in a February 10 editorial that the men were a danger to society and called for the judge to throw the book at them.

What the jury could not buy were the charges of “conspiracy to commit terrorism” based on the Illinois terrorism statute. This is one of many such laws passed in the U.S. following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when a “war on terror” was declared as a rationale for the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and for escalating repression and snooping at home. Calling the proceedings a “terrorist show trial,” the NATO 3’s defense team aptly noted that the state’s definition of terrorism was so vague and broad that it could include “labor strikes, peaceful occupations and sit-ins, political protests and boycotts.” As for “conspiracy,” this is what the government uses to nail those it wants to silence yet cannot charge with demonstrable criminal acts. Organizing against slavery was “conspiratorial,” and labor unions used to be considered illegal conspiracies in this country.

Representatives of the Partisan Defense Committee, a legal and social defense organization associated with the Marxist Spartacist League, attended the Chicago trial, which had a thick air of intimidation of the NATO 3’s supporters. Admission was effectively curbed as those wishing to attend the trial had to register and submit to a background check on site. No papers, buttons, T-shirts or anything else indicating support for the defendants were allowed into the courtroom. The conviction of the NATO 3 is a threat to leftists, labor organizations, immigrants, and all would-be opponents of this racist capitalist system.

Sentencing is set for February 28. The PDC urges WV readers to join us in contributing to the NATO 3 defense fund. Donations can be made at www.wepay.com/donations/freethenato3. Free the NATO 3 now!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1040, 21 February 2014)

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