UPDATED 05/18/12 1:24 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Three anti-NATO protesters were planning to attack police stations, Mayor Emanuel’s home and President Obama’s campaign headquarters with Molotov cocktails during the NATO Summit, police sources said on Saturday.
The three, who have been charged with possessing explosives to commit terrorist acts, were witnessed by undercover police investigators making the fire bombs inside an apartment in Bridgeport, authorities say. They have been under surveillance for several days and arrested on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., insist the only thing inside that apartment was beer-making equipment.
Authorities said four completed Molotov cocktails were seized by police along with other weapons and instructions on how to make pipe bombs.
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But Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said surveillance has proven that their plans were far more sinister, and could have hurt or killed people in Chicago.
“These individuals charged today are self-proclaimed anarchists who traveled together from Florida to the Chicago area,” said Cook County State’s Anita Alvarez. “Their intent was to commit terrorist acts of violence and destruction during the NATO Conference.”
Specifically, Alvarez said the group planned to attack police cars and four Chicago Police stations with “destructive devices.” The attacks on police were intended to be a diversionary tactic to undermine the police response to other attacks, Alvarez said.
“Some of the proposed targets included the campaign headquarters of President Barack Obama, the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and certain downtown financial institutions,” Alvarez said.
The group also allegedly was conducting surveillance on Chicago Police Headquarters.
“They also employed police counter-measures such as manufacturing a shield with protruding nails, and police also seized an assault mask, gas mask equipment, and other gear to help hide their identity during their operations,” Alvarez said. “At one point in the investigation, defendant Church stated that he also wanted to buy several assault rifles, and indicated that if a police officer was going to point a gun at him, then he would be pointing one back at a police officer.”
The defendants also produced Molotov cocktails out of old beer bottles filled with gasoline and capped with cut bandannas as fuses, Alvarez said.
“As they prepared and plotted how they would use the Molotov cocktails, defendant church at one point asked his co-defendants if he had ever seen a ‘cop on fire,’ as he discussed throwing a Molotov cocktail into the 9th District Chicago Police station,” Alvarez said.
Sources said the trio was part of the Black Bloc method of violent anarchist protesting/rioting that began in Europe in the 1970s. In the Black Bloc method, protesters often dress all in black and cover their faces, as they destroy property and try to pick fights with police officers.
Sources told CBS 2 that this Black Bloc group had late night training sessions and part of their efforts could have included improvised explosives, swords, hunting bows, throwing stars and brass knuckles.
At one point, one member of the group allegedly said: “The city doesn’t know what it’s in for. After NATO the city will never be the same.”
All three are being held on $1.5 million bonds. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said: The people charged today are self-proclaimed anarchists.”
“They are domestic terrorists,” Alvarez said.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy reiterated that he had said from the beginning that police sought to protect people’s First Amendment Rights, but that criminal activity would not be tolerated.
“This plot clearly does not represent protest behavior. This is criminal behavior, and this presents a fulfillment of our obligation,” McCarthy said.
Even after the detailed allegations had been released, attorneys for the suspects insisted that the charges had all been made up by authorities.
“The city and various levels of law enforcement manufacture crimes against activists, political activists,” Gelsomino said.
Sources said the men were suspected of building Molotov cocktails and plotting terrorist acts 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.”
The Web site for Occupy Chicago also continues to feature a news release defending the suspects, although it appears to have been prepared before the detailed allegations were released.
“Preemptive raids, terrorism and conspiracy charges are common characteristics of National Special Security Events,” reads a subhead in the release.
Before the detailed charges were released, Occupy Chicago spokeswoman Rachel Perrotta also defended the suspects by claiming that they were only brewing their own beer.
“They brew their own beer, so you have bottles. You have tubes. You have other materials like that,” she said.
Perrotta said she did not know the three suspects, but said before the charges were detailed that the city was overreacting.
“The Chicago Police and the Mayor’s Office are running this campaign of fear and intimidation. It’s disgusting,” Perrotta said.
Occupy Chicago also said it planned to protest the charges by marching from LaSalle Street and Jackson Boulevard to Daley Plaza at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
The hashtag #NATO3 has also been catching fire on Twitter. At least one supporter questioned whether they were “political prisoners.”
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.