Cops: Occupy protesters at Chicago NATO sumnmit held over Molotov cocktail plot
Three protesters at the NATO summit in Chicago have been charged with terrorism conspiracy stemming from allegations that they planned to make Molotov cocktails, police said.
Chicago police Lt. Kenneth Stoppa told The Associated Press early Saturday that the three were being held on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an explosive or incendiary device and providing material support.
He said they would face a bond hearing later Saturday morning.
Stoppa identified the men charged as 20-year-old Brian Church, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; 24-year-old Jared Chase, of Keene, N.H.; and 24-year-old Brent Vincent Betterly, of Oakland Park, Mass.
Their attorney, Sarah Gelsomino, told AP the men were "absolutely in shock and have no idea where these charges are coming from."
"The National Lawyers Guild deplores the charges against Occupy activists in the strongest degree," Gelsomino said in a statement decrying the charges. "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."
Six others initially arrested have been released. They were all detained in a raid Wednesday on a home in Bridgeport on Chicago's South Side, NBCChicago.com reported.
Beer or bombs?
But the group of protesters said what police thought was suspicious was actually a home beer-brewing operation.
“We were handcuffed to a bench and our legs were shackled together. We were not told what was happening,” one of those detained but later released, Darrin Ammussek, told the station.
“I believe very strongly in non-violence, and if I had seen anything that even resembled any plans or anything like that, we wouldn’t have been there," he added.
He claimed 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, The Associated Pres reported. 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.
NBCChicago.com said that the National Lawyers Guild had threatened legal action if the detained protesters were not released or charged by Friday night.
“They came in with guns drawn and broke into a unit that was not housing protestors in order to get into another unit in the building that was housing protestors,” Kris Hermes, of the National Lawyers Guild, told NBCChicago.com.
Police superintendent Garry McCarthy would not discuss the incident. “We’re not going to talk about it, it’s an ongoing investigation that is not completed, we are not going to talk about it,” McCarthy told the station Friday.
National Lawyers Guild representatives are seeking a copy of the search warrant affidavit used in the raid.
Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries, including 50 heads of state, will discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defense.
Among the pre-NATO protests planned for Saturday was a march on the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The big show will be on Sunday, the start of the two-day NATO summit, when thousands of protesters are expected to march 2½ miles from a band shell on Lake Michigan to the McCormick Place convention center, where delegates will be meeting.
Cops: No 'banana peel' arrests
On Friday, Chicago police on bicycles and foot tailed activists through the streets of the city, but ignored taunts and went out of their way to make as few arrests as possible. Protesters made a lot of noise and tried to evade police, but otherwise were relatively uneventful.
In all, police said there was a single arrest on a charge of aggravated battery of a police officer. Another man was briefly taken into custody, but he was released a short time later after being questioned by police, a department spokesman said.
Also, officers were seen trying to arrest a man who scaled a bridge tower and pulled down part of a NATO banner. Earlier, police handcuffed a man at the end of a noisy but largely peaceful rally organized by the nation's largest nurses union.
From the police side of the protest line, it went largely how Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy envisioned it earlier this month when he said, "We're not going to lock somebody up for dropping a banana peel."
Michael Olstewski, 22, a recent music school graduate who came to Chicago from Atlanta, one of hundreds of protesters who took to the streets on Friday for a spontaneous march, said protesters may be waiting to make a big statement.
He said he didn't do anything to get arrested Friday, "but later in the week ... If I feel it's strategic and a powerful statement" he would provoke police into arresting him.