Dangerous Trial Starts in Chicago

January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On January 22, opening arguments began in a Chicago courtroom in the trial of three young men facing state terrorism and conspiracy charges. This case is the first use of the Illinois Terrorism Statute passed after September 11, 2001. The defendants' arrests took place in the days leading up to the NATO war criminals summit in May 2012. (For background on the NATO Summit, the mass protests against it, and the heavy government repression, see the following revcom.us articles: "Chicago Gears Up for NATO Summit: This is What a Police State Looks Like," "NATO in Chicago: Thousands Protest War Criminals' Summit" and "Iraq, Afghan War Vets Throw Back Medals, March with Thousands.")

What follows is taken from a January 21 statement by The World Can't Wait Chicago chapter:

"... these three men were arrested just days before the NATO generals' conference held here in May 2012, when an apartment in Bridgeport was raided and 11 people arrested, most of whom were soon released. Those arrests became front page headlines alleging 'terrorist plots,' just as thousands were preparing to demonstrate. The NATO 3 have been in jail awaiting trial ever since. They are facing numerous felonies, including terrorism charges under the never-before-used 'Illinois Terrorism Statute,' charges that carry very long sentences.

"This trial matters for several reasons. First, the Illinois terrorism statute is so vague it can be stretched almost indefinitely. Their lawyers have pointed out that the statute they are charged under uses a definition of terrorism that does not even require an element of force or violence and impinges on First Amendment rights of free speech. When mere words and/or peaceful demonstrations can be defined as acts of 'terror,' everyone who understands that political protest and demonstrations are vital must speak out against such prosecution.

"Thousands from around the US and the world demonstrated in May 2012, when NATO met here in Chicago. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is a U.S.-led military alliance that bombed Libya and continues to wage war on the people of Afghanistan. It is one piece in the apparatus of endless criminal 'war OF terror' the US is waging across the globe, a dirty war in which hundreds of thousands have been killed, detained, and tortured. World Can't Wait and many organizations and individuals rightly took to the streets of Chicago that week in May 2012 to speak out against US and NATO war crimes...

"The trumped up prosecution of the NATO 3 was and is aimed at shifting the spotlight away from NATO's crimes and portraying those who speak out against war as the criminals.

"For months leading up to the NATO conference, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel fed a media frenzy about the need to 'safeguard' the city of Chicago from 'violent protesters,' to pass restrictive new anti-protest ordinances, and even re-open an old state prison—all in order to fan public fears. Weeks before NATO, the CPD was already targeting people for surveillance, especially around Occupy Chicago. It is alleged that undercover CPD cops egged on protesters to plan an action and even supplied them with what were later portrayed as 'weapons.' The People's Law Office, which is representing the NATO 3 along with National Lawyers Guild attorneys, will argue that they were targeted for their ideology and NOT because they represented any threat to public safety.

"The government responds to protests with repression, both physical attacks and draconian prosecution, but they are not all powerful. They act out of fear—fear of the people standing up against their crimes, and fear of losing legitimacy in the eyes of millions. Opposing this prosecution politically is just as important as taking it on legally, and this is where we come in, those who know the government will stop at nothing to continue its crimes and suppress those who resist. We must speak out against these outrageous charges..."

Chicago World Can't Wait also reported the following as the trial opened last week:

"The message was pretty clear: the public is not welcome at the trial of three men dubbed the NATO 3, which began today, January 21, in Chicago.

"The court has issued orders that anyone wishing to attend must submit state-issued identification the day before they want to observe what is supposed to be a public trial, so they can be cleared by the Sheriff's office. And that must be repeated each day!

"David Shapiro, professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, and attorney Alan Mills, legal director of the Uptown People's Law Center, wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, 'The net effect [of these restrictions] will be to deprive the public of full knowledge of how the prosecution unfolds against the three men who were arrested on terrorism charges before world leaders gathered in Chicago to attend the 2012 NATO summit. Their attorneys contend the three men were charged based on idle chatter, laced with bravado and abetted, encouraged and egged on by the undercover police agents.'" They conclude that, "This is a 'high-profile trial' only because the state has inflated misdemeanor attempted vandalism charges into trumped-up terrorism charges. There is no apparent reason to suspect any threat to security."

While the court has since ordered that spectators can register on the day they wish to observe the trial, the public still faces extraordinary measures, including police dogs in the hallway the day the trial opened. Revolution newspaper will continue to cover developments in this important prosecution.

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