Torture in the Windy City?

Nothing is ever as it seems.  Ever.

Susan Basko said that “Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly, and Jared Chase arrived by car in Chicago” for the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.  Word was out about a large protest led by the Occupy Movement.  They made plans to meet up with other protesters from that movement.  The Occupy Movement, that began in the fall of 2011 in New York City’s Zuccotti’s Park,  had set the tone for direct clashes with police, sit-ins, and diffused pacing and ambiguous marching hither and yon.  Young kids inspired by the injustices of poverty were attending demonstrations and marches sponsored by the movement in over 900 different cities as a kind of pilgrimage of political protest.

Dubbed the NATO 3, the three young men–Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly, and Jared Chase–drove from Florida all the way to Chicago for the two-day event held on May 20th and 21st.   My guess is that these young men saw the Occupy Movement as a chance to raise a little hell, meet chicks, and party.  I can’t imagine them having any well-formed opinion or position against NATO or Rahm Emanuel or any government entity for that matter.  But getting involved in push-and-shove confrontations with phalanxed cops, six rows deep gives them something to talk about back home.

Boy do these kids have something to talk about.

What happened is that the three young Floridians got caught up in something bigger than themselves–the federally funded Homeland Security and its secret agent provocateurs.  As the kids arrived in Chicago and met up with their Occupy Movement point man, their itinerary seemed to fall apart almost immediately.  The boys were taunted by undercover agents to entertain violent actions against the cops and government persons and sites.  Susan Basko offers up what I think happened.  “As Gloves and Mo, the two infiltrators introduced the idea of making bottle bombs, and provided the materials.   From what is known about the men [the NATO 3], it seems likely they were being polite, since the undercover duo was their source of free beer.”

These kids probably had money for beer and food and not enough for accommodations, which might have been part of the deal or allure to come to Chicago.  They’re relying on the generosity and the group camaraderie of the Occupy Movement.

Russia Times explains that “Betterly, 25, Chase, 29, and Church, 22, all of Florida, were arrested two days before the beginning of the NATO summit, in May 2012, for alleged involvement in making Molotov cocktails using four empty beer bottles, gasoline and an undercover police officer’s bandanna.”

Molotov cocktails?  From Floridians?  What else were they accused of?

“In addition to the NATO summit, the defendants were accused of plotting to damage President Barack Obama’s Chicago headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home, police precinct stations and one downtown bank.”  I could easily imagine an undercover agent presenting what sounds like a bonafide plan for wreaking havoc, and these young men, to save face and protect some bravado, nodding their heads in agreement without meaning it.

NATO 3 2.si
The ‘NATO 3’: Brian Church (L), Brent Vincent Betterly (C), and Jared Chase are seen in these handout photos from the Chicago Police department released to Reuters May 19, 2012. (Reuters / Chicago Police)

These men were coaxed with beer and probably joints and rebel rousing to pin a very expensive and very public trial on them and to leave their names and bank accounts altered forever.  These boys are not terrorists.  The worst kind of terrorism is state terrorism because it is so adequately funded.  Think 9/11.  Think war.  These kids didn’t have money; they were relying on the generosity, promised or otherwise, of strangers in a movement for whom they foolishly put their faith.  But let’s say that they were serious, organized radicals protesting NATO.  All they were doing was protesting.  A protest does not a terrorist make.  It’s one thing to protest a government agency.  It’s quite another to get on board with violent actions, planned or otherwise.

So on what piece of evidence did the prosecution build their case that the NATO 3 were not in Chicago for a little rebel rousing but instead to commit horrific harm against very specific government targets?

Basko explains, “The prosecution has also presented evidence that the three men arrived in Chicago with a guitar case filled with things like a bow and arrows, handcuffs, and some martial arts stuff.  To me, these seem like typical things that 20-something pot heads from Florida are likely to consider entertainment.  Peruse homemade youtube videos for proof of this.  There are countless videos of young Floridians shooting things with automatic weapons, blowing things up, twirling martial arts gizmos, jumping off things, and in general, having fun being stupid.”

Bow and arrow?  What are these guys–some ancient British long-bow archer and they’re going to stand on some rooftop and use arrows to put dents in a government building?  It makes no sense.  Handcuffs?  Oh, brother.  Were they planning to detain someone against their will?  Martial arts stuff? So they’re into Bruce Lee and nun-chucks and ninja dagger stars.  You can get these at Amazon.  At worse, think of these kids as extras in Jackass: The Movie.  The absurdity by which the government prosecuted its case was made by Jared Chase’s defense attorney, Thomas Durkin.  Thomas Durkin, Chase’s defense attorney, “took to mocking what the prosecution called tools the three possessed that could be used for terrorism – knives, a sword, a sling shot, a bow and arrow and a throwing star that Church brought to Chicago in a guitar case. Durkin held up the “rinky dink” sling shot in the courtroom Thursday, drawing laughs from those present.

“Tool of the terrorism trade for sure.” he said, adding, “Give me a break.”

Testimony revealed that the undercover agents rewarded the boys with beer.  “The defense said the clandestine recordings showed the three were often stoned, drunk or plainly too obtuse to be terrorists. They said the two undercover cops, Nadia Chikko and Mehmet Uygun, consistently passed alcohol onto the defendants and enthusiastically encouraged them to build the Molotovs in an effort to find a scapegoat after months of sifting through activist groups searching for potential criminal plots.”  “. . . too obtuse to be terrorists.”  How funny.  These guys were just generally stoned, sleep deprived, under nourished or just chillin’ it and deferring to the authority of the group.  What group was it?

The boys, according to one report, were a very loose part of the Occupy Movement, infiltrated by Chicago police who manufactured the idea of violence and worked to pin a violence charge on the boys.  “. . . the defense showed how much the supposed plot to use Molotov cocktails in Chicago during the 2012 NATO meeting was shepherded by law enforcement, highlighting increased counter-terrorism operations by police in the US that critics say border on entrapment. The defense also warned that dissent should not be conflated with terrorism.”  What this means is that the over-reach by Homeland Security likes to throw fuel on the fire in the hopes of ensnaring some of its own homegrown youth in a terrorist plot to legitimize the agency involved and secure their budgets for the following year.

Apparently this was not the first in a rash of “shepherding” boys to acts of terror.  Prior to this May 20 event, government agents coaxed a few twenty-something anti-capitalists to blow up a bridge in Cleveland.  And as they’re coaxed, the undercover agents get to be heroes for stopping a terrorist plot.  Alex Newman says that “In typical fashion, the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that five self-styled left-wing anarchists arrested late Monday for allegedly trying to blow up a bridge near Cleveland were actually shepherded through every step of the supposed plot by government agents. The FBI later claimed nobody was ever in real danger because the federal government gave the alleged “terrorists” fake bombs.”

And on the black-ops, disappearing house in Chicago, the treatment is torture.  And torture is generally used to secure a confession for crimes the victim did not commit.  According to The Blaze’s Jason Howerton:

The Guardian’s investigation reportedly found that the following tactics are used at the site:

• Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.

• Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.

• Shackling for prolonged periods.

• Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.

• Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

The report adds, “At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.”

The boys spent three years in jail for the duration of the trial and last Thursday were found not guilty of terrorism charges.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the three young men, accused by the state of Illinois of plotting violent acts at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, were found guilty on two counts of mob action.”

Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly were eventually acquitted on terrorism charges, but were each sentenced to prison time after being found guilty of “mob action” charges and a count of possessing an incendiary device to commit arson. Church is now on parole after serving two and a half years in prison.

Even though Church’s case garnered national media attention, a group of attorneys were reportedly unable to locate him. One of his attorneys said no booking record existed for her client. It wouldn’t be until after they made a “major stink” with the city, under the leadership of mayor Rahm Emanuel, that they learned where Church was being held.

Church told the publication of his experience:

“Essentially, I wasn’t allowed to make any contact with anybody,” Church told the Guardian, in contradiction of a police guidance on permitting phone calls and legal counsel to arrestees.

Church’s left wrist was cuffed to a bar behind a bench in windowless cinderblock cell, with his ankles cuffed together. He remained in those restraints for about 17 hours.

“I had essentially figured, ‘All right, well, they disappeared us and so we’re probably never going to see the light of day again,’” Church said.

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