Judge acquits man accused in anti-NATO protests
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporteremail@example.com March 19, 2013 1:59PM
Alex Cerajewski / photo from Chicago Police
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:35AM
A Cook County judge Tuesday acquitted an Indiana man of throwing a pair of empty Gatorade bottles at Chicago Police and urging “Black Bloc” anarchists to blend in with the crowd during the anti-NATO protests last year.
“Thank you,” a smiling Alex Cerajewski told Judge Kevin Sheehan after he cleared the 21-year-old of mob action.
“Stay away from the protests,” the judge replied back.
Before issuing his ruling, Sheehan pointed out that the prosecutors’ sole witness — Sgt. Brian Hawkins — said he saw Cerajewski hurl the bottles at officers outside the Art Institute on May 20, even though he said the young man was wearing a dark “turban” that only showed his eyes.
Cerajewski’s attorney Robert Strunck said his client never threw the projectiles and was only waving a flag as he stood atop a newspaper box.
The defense attorney also noted that officers wrote in their report that Cerajewski threw glass bottles but Gatorade has not made glass bottles in years.
The bottles were never recovered and no officers were injured, according to court testimony.
“If he wants to be Leon Trotsky, he’s done a bad job doing it,” Strunck said before asking the judge to find Cerajewski innocent.
Hawkins was working undercover that night as First Lady Michelle Obama dined inside the museum. As he stood with the other protesters, Hawkins said he heard Cerajewski tell others black clad protesters that he was going to “get the police to respond by force.”
The sergeant then said he observed Cerajewski and others throw bottles at police at a skirmish line.
Hawkins said he kept his eye on Cerajewski as he took off his black wardrobe and handed his clothes to two women before walking away into a nearby 7-Eleven.
Following the brief bench trial, Strunck called Cerajewski’s arrest a “total overreaction.”
“Nothing really happened here,” he said.
“This was not the 1968 Democratic National Convention. These kids were peacefully protesting.”