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Arrested for Your Politics in America? It's Already Happening

The nebulous but potent charge of terrorism has been used to systematically curtail justice.

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"A person commits the offence of terrorism, when with the intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of a civilian population; he or she knowingly commits a terrorist act." 

The language used is vague, opaque and clearly lends itself to a chillingly broad landscape of prosecutorial action. But most significant, the statute does not require that an unlawful act be committed in order for a charge of terrorism to be brought against an individual in an Illinois court. 

Indeed, civil rights lawyer Michael Deutsch believes, "The law could theoretically be used against labour strikes, acts of civil disobedience, demonstrations, and so on." In other words, acts that should be protected under the First Amendment are not exempted from the definition of terrorism. 

We have already seen how the domestic front of the "War on Terror" has effectively turned lawful acts,  like contributing to charities in the Middle East, into illegal "material support" of Foreign Terrorist Organisations. Staggering attacks on democracy and liberty continue as a growing list of activities that are framed as terrorism. 

The only time the Illinois statute has been used was against a group of Occupy activists. 

On May 16, 2012, days before the NATO summit was scheduled to take place in Chicago, the local police  raided an apartment and arrested nine Occupy activists who had come together from around the country to protest the convention. 

Over the next few days, all but three were released. Those who remained behind bars were: Brian Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 24, from Florida, and Jared Chase, 27, from New Hampshire. 

On May 19, they were indicted under the state's anti-terrorism statute and charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession of explosives. 

After announcing the charges, the State's Attorney, Anita Alvarez, released a document to the press that introduced the three young men as "self-proclaimed anarchists" and "members of the "'Black Bloc' group", and sketched out the plans they had been "conspiring" against the city of Chicago. 

What the press release did not mention is that the group had been infiltrated and coached by two undercover police officers named "Gloves" and "Mo". 

Definition of terrorism

Utilising one of the classic tactics perfected in time-honoured counter-intelligence operations used to intimidate, threaten and entrap people engaged with political groups out of favour with the government (from the Black Panthers, environmental protection groups, and Communists to protesters of the Vietnam war and others), the cops  convinced the young men to concoct Molotov cocktails and, as soon as they did, phoned into police headquarters - triggering the raid. 

After the charges were announced, Deutsch, the lawyer representing the three men,  told the press that the case was "even worse than entrapment". 

On the phone, Deutsch explained to me that this case fits within "the whole policy of pre-emptive prosecution, of creating the crime and then solving it". 

Entrapment is consistently employed in these cases. However, where the presence of entrapment may have seen a case thrown out in the past, the logic of pre-emptive prosecution arms the state with the ability to justify its actions and successfully circumvent that defence, as noted by Project Salam: 

"When the defendant claims as a defence to have been entrapped in a crime manufactured by the government, the government counters with the claim that the defendant was 'predisposed' to commit the crime, which would negate the entrapment defence." 

On January 25, the Nato 3's lawyers filed a motion in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, challenging the constitutionality of the state's terrorism law. If the court agrees with them, the defendants will be charged with possession of explosives but will no longer face a 40-year prison sentence for terrorism.