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3 NATO Summit Protesters Arrested for Conspiracy to Commit Terrorism; National Lawyers Guild Says Charges “Trumped Up”

Thousands of protesters have converged on Chicago to protest the NATO summit. (Photo: Brian Bieschke)

Three NATO summit protesters were arrested in Chicago and charged Saturday with explosives possession and conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Brian Church, age 20; Jared Chase, 24 and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24 were among nine people arrested in a Wednesday night raid on an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.

“Police broke down doors with guns drawn and searched residences without a warrant or consent,” National Lawyers Guild attorney Sarah Gelsomino told the Sun-Times. 

All but three of those arrested were reportedly released by police, but Church, Chase and Betterly were each charged with three felony counts of possession of an explosive or incendiary device, conspiracy to commit terrorism and providing material support to terrorism, according to Harrison District Police Lt. Kenneth Stoppa.

Sources told the Sun-Times that the protesters were suspected of making Molotov cocktails, bottles filled with flammable fluid that are used as incendiary bombs.

MSNBC reports that the three men were allegedly planning on attacking four Chicago police stations, the local headquarters of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and the home of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The trio’s arrest comes as world leadersand thousands of protesters— converged on the Windy City for the NATO summit. 

Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild told the Sun-Times that the arrests were part of an ongoing police harassment campaign against the three men, who were pulled over by officers last week and interrogated about their protest plans.

“We cannot say enough that we believe that these charges are absolutely … very trumped up charges,” she stated, “clearly in an attempt to continue this intimidation campaign on activists. Charging these people who are here to peacefully protest against NATO for terrorism, when in reality the police have been terrorizing activists in Chicago, is absolutely outrageous.”

“Although some accusations of Molotov cocktails have been made by police, they have provided no evidence of criminal intent or wrongdoing on the part of the activists,” she said in the statement. “On Thursday, when asked about the raid at a press conference, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy knew so little about the alleged terrorism investigation that he said he would have to gather further information before commenting.”

Chase is said to be involved in the Occupy movement and has reportedly been arrested for minor civil disobedience offenses before.

“He told me he was going to be protesting,” Michael Chase, Jared’s uncle, told the Sun-Times from his New Hampshire home. “He gets a little carried away and does a little elbow bumping with police but certainly nothing like you’re describing.

Dozens of fellow protesters converged on the police station where the three men were being held on Friday night, chanting “48 hours is at it’s end, now it’s time to free our friends!” and, “our passion for freedom is stronger than their prison.” They attempted to march around the block, but police stopped them, telling them it was too late for loud chanting in a residential neighborhood.

A 36-year-old protester named Annusek, who was arrested and released, told the Sun-Times that police accused him of being part of a conspiracy. He says he was held for 18 hours without access to a bathroom and that some of his fellow arrestees were forced to relieve themselves in their clothing.

There have also been reports of police harassing Occupy journalists in Chicago. FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola posted these videos of Chicago police stopping a carful of journalists at gunpoint, searching and detaining them on Saturday night.

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