NATO3: What Mo and Gloves Did Wrong

NATO3: What Mo and Gloves Did Wrong
by Susan Basko
February 2, 2014

 What did Chicago police officers Mo (Mehmet Uygun) and Gloves (Nadia Chikko) do wrong? They created a supposed terrorism crime, rather than simply watching to see if one happened.  Entrapment as a legal defense is nearly impossible due to legal technicalities.  Entrapment as a factual reality is far more common, especially in terrorism charges.  

A year and eight months ago, the NATO summit was held in Chicago.  Large protests were planned.  A huge amount of federal money was being pumped into the City for security and safety.  Three young men who came to Chicago from Florida to protest were set up by two undercover Chicago police officers, who nicknamed themselves Mo and Gloves.  Mo and Gloves made themselves part of the scene at the apartment where the protesters were staying.  Mo and Gloves brought up the idea of making molotov cocktails, then provided bottles, rags, and gas. Mo and Gloves  then had the place raided and the three young men were arrested and charged under the Illinois Terrorism law, a ridiculously vague law under which almost anything could be labeled terrorism.  

Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly, and Jared Chase are now on trial in Chicago.  Kevin Gosztola is providing excellent coverage live tweeting from the courtroom at @KGosztola. It's the first time the Illinois terrorism law is being used.  If real terrorism had taken place, the Feds would be running this case.  Hopefully, the jurors will be smart enough to see that the Illinois terrorism law itself calls for jury nullification.  The jurors may also see that the criminal mens rea was not provided by the three young men, who seem to have been mainly interested in partying, but by Mo and Gloves, the undercover police.  

As a member of the public and as a protest planner, I do want police to watch for signs of impending mass violence, but I do not want them to create, inspire, or participate in such violence.  

Lest any smarty pants start saying I don't know what I am talking about, I had a whole lot at stake in that Chicago NATO protest.  I was the one whose name was on the permit application for the main protest of Sunday, May 20, 2012.  I had reserved the day months in advance, when both G8 and NATO were supposed to come to Chicago.  I was planning a First Amendment event for independent media from across the nation.  The big main protest was planned for Saturday, May 19, 2012.  When the G8 was suddenly moved to Camp David, that left the May 19 protest date less meaningful because the objects of the protest would not be present, and City rules made it too late to apply for another permit in time.  The City officials though they'd effectively blocked a big protest, when I pulled a rabbit out of my ass.  I offered to share my long-pending May 20 permit with the main protest coalition.  This set off a series of complex negotiations and court hearings to get the protest within sight and sound of the NATO summit location.   I then joined with others on the East Coast in planning a protest for May 19 in Frederick, Maryland, by Camp David, where the G8 summit would take place.  There would be a protest in both locations, as there should have been. 

Just as a side note, the big May 20 NATO Chicago protest was not planned by Occupy Chicago.  While the Chicago Occupiers were certainly welcome to participate and were in the coalition, the group was a very minor player.  The protest was planned by large, known, long-standing groups with good track records for running peaceful protests.  It was a coalition of peace groups, economic justice groups, veterans, churches, unions, legal organizations, and others.  The unions footed the bill for very expensive insurance required by the city, porta-potties, and a myriad of other expenses.  Running a big protest legally as an event is expensive.   Yes, protesters can take to the streets and incur no expense, but they may also be chased off by police. The coalition desired the May 20 protest to be peaceful, safe, legal, permitted, and family-friendly.  

With my name on the permit application,  I was damn concerned that the May 20 protest be peaceful. I had visions of ending out like the 1968 Chicago Conspiracy Seven, on trial with people whom they'd never met, for conspiring to plan a riot.   I did not want any property damage or personal injury.  I run a blog on how to plan peaceful protest and featured the NATO and G8 protests on it.  I had people from all over the world contacting me for information on the protests. I was helping journalists get official press passes.   I was connecting protesters nationwide to the free buses being offered by a Nurses group.  I was answering queries about where to stay and steering people to good hostels.  I was taking flack and had people blaming me for "my" protest.   I had news reporters contacting me as a source for their stories.  I did not dish them the stories of fear and riot porn they were looking for, but instead, told them about the peaceful, family-friendly protests being carefully planned. An organized, intelligent populace is a force taken seriously, but scary sells.

I also had a few people sending emails warning about violence they said would occur at the protest.    One was a high school kid far away who seemed to be civic-minded.  Another was eerie and seemed like a possible real warning.  So yes, I was concerned.  I wanted the police, FBI, NSA, and whoever else to watch, keep an eye out.  I don't think anyone fair would have wanted the police to be entrapping kids coming to town.  But that is what happened.

Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly, and Jared Chase arrived by car in Chicago. They were stopped by police in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood, in a video that soon became famous on youtube.  The cop's statement became a refrain in a protest the next day, and has been repeated at the trial. "1968, you know what they said? Billy club to the back of the head!"  Straight up, that particular protest was one of the funniest things I have ever seen: a group of young kids moving quickly around Chicago's south side, covering many miles at a marathon-racing pace, using diversion tactics, scattering and regrouping, stopping to dance to music that must have been only in their earbuds, tossing trash cans and sneaking down gangways, jumping turnstiles at the el.  They caused no real damage and used a whole lot of energy, with their main message being "We're here!" 

Officers Nadia Chikko and Officer Mehmet Uygun infiltrated the apartment where Church, Betterly, and Chase were staying with a group of about 15 people total.  As Gloves and Mo, the two infiltrators introduced the idea of making bottle bombs, and provided the materials.   From what is known about the men, it seems likely they were being polite, since the undercover duo was their source of free beer.  There is no evidence of the three young men planning or making any bombs on their own.  It sounds like their participation was minimal and meant to keep the beer flowing.

Update February 13, 2014: After deliberating, the Jury found all 3 men guilty of possession of an incendiary device with knowledge that someone else would use it.  This is a felony that has a sentence of 4 to 30 years in prison.  They were each also found guilty of mob action, which is a misdemeanor.  

At the ongoing trial, the prosecution has introduced evidence that a gps monitor attached to the car the men were driving shows that the men drove within three blocks of Obama Headquarters. This is supposed to be proof that they were planning to bomb the headquarters.  The headquarters is in Prudential Plaza. If you know Chicago, you know that a car would come within 3 blocks of the HQ by going to Millennium Park, driving on Michigan Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, or State Street, or going to any of thousands of tourist attractions, bars, or restaurants.  

The prosecution has also presented evidence that the three men arrived in Chicago with a guitar case filled with things like a bow and arrows, handcuffs, and some martial arts stuff.  To me, these seem like typical things that 20-something pot heads from Florida are likely to consider entertainment.  Peruse homemade youtube videos for proof of this.  There are countless videos of young Floridians shooting things with automatic weapons, blowing things up, twirling martial arts gizmos, jumping off things, and in general, having fun being stupid. 

Okay, so as the person whose name was on the permit for the main protest, and as a person who only wants peaceful protest, I do not want this farce ongoing.  These three young men should not be facing more prison time.  They have been in the horrifying Cook County Jail for one year and eight months.   Creating crime is not what I want the police to do.  I want police to watch for crime, not to participate and create crime.  

By creating crime related to protest, the police are interfering with and chilling First Amendment rights.  

After the prosecution presents its case, the defense has the chance to ask for a directed verdict.  This means the Judge declares the defendants are Not Guilty, because no jury could legally find otherwise. I am looking for a Directed Verdict in this case.  Enough is enough.