Chicago: This is What a Police State Looks Like
CHICAGO— Trenched up in riot gear and equipped with billy clubs, batons, pepper spray, machine guns, snarling dogs, whirring helicopters, LRAD sound cannons in tow the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois State Police and other government agencies and military forces casted the perfect climate for imminent clashes between themselves and NATO protestors for last week's summits as occupiers and activists descended on the Windy City to voice their discontent for a range of NATO-backed policies.
The NATO summits were classified as a National Special Security Event, giving the Secret Service, the FBI and FEMA sweeping control over decisions relating to security, intelligence gathering and recovery after criminal events.The federal government set up a militarized “red zone in downtown Chicago to protect federal buildings there, giving protestors at the summit a slight taste of what it might be like to live in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where NATO’s military presence has become a de facto way of life for its inhabitants. As a result of the heavy detail in security and intelligence mining there were more than 100 NATO protestors arrested according to the National Lawyers Guild--with five facing terrorism charges.
Three of the arrested were apprehended by the Chicago Police Department during a raid in a Southside Bridgeport neighborhood apartment housed by two Occupy Chicago activists. The police allegedly confiscated materials used to home brew of beer, and the three were later accused of making Molotov cocktails. The three activists, dubbed the NATO 3, are facing terrorism charges but have been martyred by occupiers and other activists as a tragic demonstration of the government's overarching reach, and abuse of individuals' first amendment rights.
The other two, less publicized, men face terrorism charges for allegedly falsely claiming to creating a terror plot when he lied about having homemade explosives at his house and ‘solicitation for possession’ of explosives, respectively. In all five cases two police informants who go by the names ‘Mo’ and ‘Gloves’ played a significant role in what defense attorneys for the NATO 3 are calling a clear case of entrapment.
“They can’t stop us from doing what we’re doing, and they realize they shouldn’t because that’s just a terrible idea and so they create the smallest legal space possible for us to do these things as if it were sufficient, but that’s basically their methodology,” says Occupy Chicago organizer Danielle Villarreal told Campus Progress in response to the slew of pre-emptive raids that seemingly targeted Occupy Chicago organizers and independent journalists.
“They are trying to single out people that they think are going to lead people in a more radical direction, which is bad for us and good for them.”
Occupy Wall Street livestreamers Luke Rudkowski, Geoff Shively, Dustin & Jess and Tim Pool, who streamed for 21 hours straight during the raid on Occupy Wall Street in Zucotti Park were raided at gun point while in their vehicle on Saturday night last week as they were driving on their way home. After confiscating the livestreamers' computer hard drives, the police slammed them against the floor of their car, and tried to delete footage of the incident before the journalists could upload it to Ustream. The video, however survived but the police haven't offered up a reason for detaining the group of indie journalists as of yet.
“It’s an affirmation that we’re doing the right thing,” said Occupy Livestreamer Geoff Shively. “I would like to see the footage from our pullover be released from the police camera and I would also like to see the police records from the CPD to see if they actually had a call and they were looking for a black car, a black ’99 Lexus, with Mexican plates, and if they were not I want them to be held accountable for the harassment that they did to us.”
The raids on Occupy Chicago activists and Occupy livestreamers is part of what looks like a larger strategy on the part of the CPD to quell dissent from the inside while appearing to use softer police tactics to control protesters. With the police riot of the 1968 Democratic National Convention lingering on Chicago’s memory, it seems clear that the CPD, Chicago Aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel would want to ensure there would not be a repeat of the violence that gripped the city during that DNC.
In the months leading up to the NATO summits the Chicago City Council passed a series of ordinance known as the ‘shut up and sit down’ ordinances which include steep fines for parade permit rule violation and a $1 million price tag on liability insurance for marches in the downtown area.
Occupiers marched on without permits for the summit in protest of the new rule because of its inherent violations of dissenter rights, agitating authorities. During the summit march, riot police continually cordoned occupiers and protestors off with kettles in attempts to control the route of the march and disassemble protesters. Police form kettles by surrounding protesters and leaving open only one clear exit path, or none at all. Some would say their "crowd control" methods mask their true intent to deny protesters their first amendment rights to free speech. During Saturday night's protest the ‘anti-capitalist march’ in downtown Chicago, for instance, police created a kettle that acted as a mobile free speech zone which actively prevented protesters' chants from carrying on to officials and dignitaries in a passing motorcade.
On Saturday night’s march, protesters led by Black Bloc anarchists were able to break through multiple police lines. In response, the police formed a line on the other end of a bridge protestors were crossing. As the marchers rushed to break the police line, marchers had become divided-- with half of the protestors on the other side of the bridge. It later became clear that the other half were stopped because a police officer had driven a van into the crowd and ran over Jack Amico in a hit-and-run.
On Sunday as remaining protesters from the much larger summit parade march, headed up by Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, who returned their war medals, attempted to head east in the direction of the convention center where the summits were being held clashed with riot police, I watched as the CPD tricked the protesters by driving an ambulance into the crowd. Protesters quickly divided themselves for the ambulance, but learned quickly that it was a ruse as riot police moved in to break up the protest. The ambulance did not pick anyone up from the crowd.
Many protesters on Sunday reported being misinformed by police officers when trying to leave the rally point. Some said they were encouraged to climb over police fences or were misdirected to false exits. For hundreds of protesters apparently trapped in intersections there were no clear exit routes, making it near impossible to comply with police's dispersal orders.
The Occupy movement now finds itself in the crosshairs of a police state redefined by the passage of federal laws such as the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits the indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects, including U.S. citizens captured on American soil, but the state’s definition of terrorism is seemingly falling apart at the seams as the police and military forces armed with an arsenal of weaponry continue to terrorize nonviolent protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.