CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Although some NATO Summit protesters said there was nothing more incriminating than home brewing equipment in the Bridgeport apartment where they were staying, three of them have now been charged with possessing explosives to commit terrorist acts.
Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., are all charged with possession of an explosive device, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and providing material support to terrorism.
According to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago police infiltrated the group and watched them make Molotov cocktails.
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As CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports, the men were being held at the Harrison District police station, 3151 W. Harrison St., until an appearance in bond court at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has scheduled a news conference to discuss the charges after the bond hearing early this afternoon.
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Sources said the men were suspected of building Molotov cocktails in an apartment at 32nd and Morgan streets.
The three defendants were among nine protesters arrested in a controversial raid at the Bridgeport apartment, in which several people complained that police mistreated them and violated their civil rights.
Photos showed the door to the apartment broken, and items ransacked. The photos also show fermenters that the occupants say were home brewing equipment, but police believe otherwise.
An attorney for the suspects, Sarah Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild, denounced the charges.
“The National Lawyers Guild deplores the charges against Occupy activists in the strongest degree,” she said. “It’s outrageous for the city to apply terrorism charges when it’s the police who have been terrorizing activists and threatening their right to protest.”
According the the NLG, the three men were surrounded by several police squad cars outside of a CVS last week, not far for the Occupy Chicago headquarters on 500 West Cermak. The group posted a video that shows police questioning their activities and possible plans for the NATO Summit.
One occupant of the apartment, Darrin Annussek, says he walked to Chicago from Philadelphia to participate in Occupy protests, only to be seized by police in the raid.
“For 18 hours, we were handcuffed to a bench and our legs were shackled together,” he said. “Some of our cries for the bathroom were either ignored or met with silence.”
Annussek was released Friday morning along with four others reportedly suspected of preparing molotov cocktails. At least one other detainee was released several hours later Friday.
Kris Hermes, also of the National Lawyers Guild said: “There is absolutely no evidence of Molotov cocktails or any other criminal activity going on at this building.”
A tenant who agreed to host the out-of-town protesters says the police did seize his home-brew making equipment, including buckets, beer bottles and caps.
“If anybody would like some, I would like to offer them a sip of my beer,” said William Vassilakis.
Other protest groups have also rushed to the defense of the four suspects.
Clown Bloq, a group that has made headlines for its plans to throw pies during anti-NATO demonstrations, put out the following tweet late Saturday morning: “We are very concerned for our friends who have been charged with Beerorrism. We are waiting for the FEDS to get us on Clownspiracy.”
Occupy Chicago said it planned to protest the charges by marching from LaSalle and Jackson to Daley Plaza at 3:30 p.m. today.
Annusek told the Sun-Times Media Wire he was held for 18 hours without access to a restroom, and some protesters soiled themselves. He also told the Sun-Times an officer wrote “ID 1968” on his hand, a reference to the Democratic National Convention that year that remains infamous for violent clashes between protesters and police.
CBS 2’s Pam Zekman asked Annussek if police would be able to latch onto any previous arrests. He told her, “Myself, I have no arrests.”
However, CBS 2 confirmed Annussek was arrested in December in connection with another Occupy event, in Raleigh, N.C.