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3 protesters charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism

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Attorneys for three men charged in Chicago with possession of an explosive device and conspiracy to commit terrorism say they were pulled over by police in Bridgeport last week. Here is a video circulated by Occupy Chicago. (Warning, some graphic language).

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Updated: July 1, 2012 12:04PM



Three NATO Summit protesters have been arrested and charged with possession of an explosive device and conspiracy to commit terrorism, police said.

Sources said the protesters were suspected of building Molotov cocktails — bottles filled with flammable liquid that are used as firebombs.

The three men were identified by police and their attorneys as Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fl.

They were charged early Saturday as dozens of dignitaries from around the globe are heading to Chicago for the NATO Summit. The men have a noon bond hearing Saturday, their lawyers said.

The men have been each charged with three felony counts: possession of an explosive or incendiary device, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and providing material support to terrorism, said Harrison District Police Lt. Kenneth Stoppa.

Outside the Harrison District police station on the West Side early Saturday morning, where the men were being held, their attorney, Sarah Gelsomino, of the National Lawyers Guild, said the arrests were part of the continued harassment of the three men, who were pulled over by cops while in a car last week near a CVS pharmacy and questioned about their protest plans. They posted a video of the incident online, she said,

“We cannot say enough that we believe that these charges are absolutely ... very trumped up charges,” said Gelsomino, “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.”

The three men were among nine people that were collared Wednesday night in a raid on an apartment building in the 1000 block of West 32nd in the Bridgeport neighborhood, she said.

She said in a written statement released later Saturday that at 11:30 p.m., “police broke down doors with guns drawn and searched residences without a warrant or consent.”

Gelsomino said she still doesn’t know the details of the charges.

“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’s uncle, Michael Chase, said Saturday that his nephew had drove up to Chicago from Miami in late April with Church and other protesters who had been taking part in the Occupy movement there. He said Chase had had a job at a restaurant in Boston, but quit to take part in that movement there, before traveling to Rhode Island, Washington D.C. and Miami to live in tents and take part in Occupy.

He said he believed Chase had been arrested before for minor civil disobedience, but nothing this serious.

“He told me he was going to be protesting,” said Michael Chase, of New Hampshire. “He gets a little carried away and does a little elbow bumping with police but certainly nothing like you’re describing.

“... I’m quite shocked. He’s not above doing dumb things but nothing like this.”

On Jared Chase’s Facebook page, he says he is a deejay and posted a graphic of his name with two automatic weapons below it — which his uncle says is because he is a “wannabe rapper.” The page says he is studying 3D animation and game programming and says he has his own marketing and promotions company.

He lists other protests he was involved in, including a May 1 event in Chicago when demonstrators blocking the entrance to Bank of America downtown.

He also references his time in Miami, when Occupy protesters were allowed to move into a rundown apartment complex in Overtown. In March, he wrote a typo-ridden post about the complex being raided by authorities: “We got raided by FBI & Miami Swat last night, everyone detained like terrorits , yet no arressts were made. I was zip tied , and the only one put in a cop car ( f--- you pigs ).”

Chase also posted a photo of himself holding a sign with the word “Oakland” on it, apparently to show solidarity with the protesters who had highly-publicized clashes with police there.

“He said we are supporting the Oakland Occupy people because a bunch of them had gotten beaten up [because of] police brutality,” Michael Chase said. “ ... He said it was confrontational and they were showing his support for those guys.”

Jared Chase had planned to return to his home state of New Hampshire to take part in a ceremony for his father, who passed away over the winter, next week.

“He said after the NATO protest he would be up the following week,” Michael Chase said. “I’m sure he hadn’t planned any major criminal activity that would get him arrested and charged and stuck there like that.”

Six of the original nine who were detained had been released by late Friday night.

One of the released protesters, Darrin Annussek, of Philadelphia, said he didn’t see bomb-making materials in the Bridgeport apartment.

Lawyers for the protesters said there was only brewing equipment there used to make beer. Michael Vassilakis said his brother William was hosting the protesters and his beer equipment was confiscated.

Gelsomino met with the men who were charged late Friday and said their faces “really lit up when they heard” that about 40 protesters had come to the station in support. About two dozen remained after midnight, chanting, “Forty-eight 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 started marching around the block, but police stopped them and said it was too late to chant so loudly in a residential area.

Gelsomino argued the Bridgeport search was illegal and that protesters were mistreated while in custody. Annussek, who was arrested and released, said he was only told he was suspected of being part of a conspiracy.

Annussek, 36, said he’s a laid-off social worker who started hiking in November as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He said he walked to Atlanta before starting a trek to Chicago in February.

After he was arrested, Annussek said he was held at one location for 18 hours without access to a bathroom. Some protesters soiled themselves before they were moved to the Harrison District, he said.

Annussek also claims an officer wrote “ID 1968” on his hand. That year, Chicago hosted the Democratic National Convention, which was marred by violence between protesters and police.

The Chicago Police Department and Cook County state’s attorney’s office would not comment on the arrests Friday.



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