Crowd cheers as protesters freed after arrests
BY MICHAEL LANSU, MITCH DUDEK, STEFANO ESPOSITO AND MAUDlYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporters May 20, 2012 11:32PM
Robert Hines, 23, of Chicago, high fives fellow protesters as he is released from custody at the 19th District Police station at Belmont and Western in Chicago, Illinois, Monday, May 21, 2012. Hines was charged with recklace conduct during the Sunday protest of the NATO Summit. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 23, 2012 11:04AM
About 200 protesters sang and cheered loudly outside a police station at Belmont and Western early Monday morning as marchers arrested in violent clashes several hours earlier were freed.
Some sat in the street or skateboarded while someone played guitar as police shut westbound Belmont to traffic. The protesters even set up a screen on a car and projected anti-corporate videos.
Among the at least 45 arrested Sunday were members of Occupy Chicago and Occupy Wall Street, a lawyer and a Getty Image photographer. However, none of those initially released admitted to be members of the “Black Bloc” anarchist group that was at the center of a bloody melee at Cermak and Michigan, and others who were let go said they did not see them inside the station.
As Robert Hines, was released after 1 a.m., he gave high fives to supporters. Another released protester gave the middle finger to police as he left.
“It was ridiculous,” said Hines, 23, an Occupy Chicago member who was arrested Sunday evening at Cermak and Michigan. Police “started hitting people with billy clubs. Basically, a misuse of power in my opinion.”
The Getty Image photographer was covering a protest when he was arrested at 9 p.m. Sunday and was charged with reckless conduct, said Mickey Osterreicher, a lawyer with the National Press Photographers Association. He did not know whether the photographer, who he declined to name, had credentials with him at the time of his arrest.
“Hopefully he can just get back out on the street and work,” Osterreicher said. “It’s always unfortunate when a journalist is arrested.”
Mary Tardif, 23, of New York, said she was a medic with Occupy Wall Street and was trying to help an older woman leave the melee when police “grabbed me and told me to bring her a certain direction, and when I did ,they arrested me. ... It was scary because I was trampled on and dragged.” However, she said she was treated well in police custody.
A 32-year-old North Side man working as live video streamer for Occupy Chicago said he was charged with disorderly conduct.
“I did nothing wrong and was trying to vacate the area,” said the man, who, like several who were arrested, declined to give his name. “I was putting something in my bag, saw them charging and tried to get away. ... Five officers threw me to the ground. I was roughed up along with many others around me.”
He added: “I’m very angry at how CPD handled the entire day.”
A 26-year-old Virginia man was charged with crossing a police line near Cermak and Michigan. He said he was sitting on the ground when he was arrested.
“I guess I was crossing the line when they dragged me through,” he said.
David O’Bryant, 29, of Portland, Ore., said he was arrested at 4:15 p.m. but released at 11 p.m. without being charged.
“I am less angry than a lot of others in there,” he said. “But I wasn’t roughed up. Most others in some way, were attacked by police.”
Some people in a police van that took him from the protest to the station had suffered concussions, he said.
Those arrested weren’t all locked up for clashes with cops.
Phil Thomas, 49, a labor lawyer from San Francisco, was in town for an unrelated conference, but he decided to go to the NATO protest because he felt solidarity with the cause. Next thing he knew, “I get into a scuffle with someone who shoved a bullhorn into my face and was yelling at me through the bullhorn, so I grabbed the bullhorn. She got very angry and went looking for police to arrest me.”
He was charged with battery and damage to property, but said police had treated him well.
Alexis Dee, 25, of Logan Square, went to the police station worried sick about her boyfriend, who was at the front lines during the clash.
Dee declined to name the Logan Square man, but said he could be seen being carried off from the clash point at Cermak and Michigan.
“His mother was watching a live stream and she saw him in the front line,” Dee said. “Then it panned away, then she saw him holding his head. Then it panned away, and then she saw him being carried off by three police officers.
“His mother is so worried about him. We want to know if he is okay.”
A police officer eventually confirmed that Dee’s boyfriend was indeed there. However, she had no idea how he was doing.
Earlier, friends and family of those arrested — and even their lawyers — said they couldn’t find out much information about them, including what they had been charged with or how they were doing.
Police stationed outside refused to comment about who was inside, or even let the public anywhere near the front entrance to the station.
Joey Mogul, a lawyer for the People’s Law Center, said police had refused to let her inside or confirm who was there.
“It’s certainly unusual for me as an attorney to have to stand outside in the rain to talk to my clients,” said Mogul. “I have never seen this before. This is a courthouse and a public should not be barricaded.”
She added: “I have dozens of clients in there right now and I am trying to get an accurate account” of who is there.
“There have been a lot of people calling asking if we know what happened to this person or that person,” said another attorney waiting outside, who said she was with the National Lawyers Guild but who declined to be identified. “Most of those arrested will probably never get a phone call, never get food, and often times, never get medical attention.
“We’ll be out here all night, waiting for people to be released, and making sure people get home safely and are connected with lawyers to fight these politically motivated charges.” The lawyers referred family members and friends looking for arrested loved ones to their hotline, (312) 913-0039. They said it has already been flooded with hundreds of phone inquiries.
Diane Moxley, 43, of New Jersey, came to check on a friend from Occupy Wall Street.
“We can’t find him,” Moxley said. “This is the last place we figured we’d look. The lawyer says he’s here. I’m very worried because we saw a lot of police brutality today. That was scary. At one point police picked up my husband and threw him.”