23 June 2012, 10:02

US law enforcement throws the book at anti-NATO protesters, Exclusive Interview

US law enforcement throws the book at anti-NATO protesters, Exclusive Interview
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Interview with Kris Hermes, an official spokesperson and legal worker for the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, indictments against 'NATO 3' protesters.

Hello. This is John Robles. I am speaking with Kris Hermes, an official spokesperson and legal worker for the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending the NATO 3.

Why were you initially denied the indictments by the prosecutors?

We were told by the state’s attorney that we would not be able to see indictments until July 2nd, when the defendants will be arraigned.

Is that normal? You are not going to have any time to prepare.

This is a little time to prepare. Typically conversations happen between the defense attorneys and the state’s attorney for whatever reason. The city has refused to talk with us about this case and so we found out about the indictments just by going to the circuit court clerk’s office. They were apparently made public in the clerk’s office and we happened to be there reviewing other cases and noticed they were there and we were able to obtain them. Why they felt that they didn’t want to let us know that the indictments were public, we are not really sure, why they wouldn’t provide them when we asked at the last court hearing, we are not really sure.

Very strange. So, what is unusual about the indictments?

There are multiple counts of possession of the incendiary device. In addition to the three charges, the three original charges, which are material support for terrorism, possession of incendiary device and conspiracy to commit terrorism, several other charges were tacked on as a result of the indictment including attempted arson, solicitation to commit arson, conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. Essentially each defendant now has 11 charges. There is not necessarily anything unusual about the indictment other than the fact that these excessive charges smack of further sensationalism by the state’s attorney to make this a show trial, to create hysteria around these sensational charges and we still have not seen any evidence. We’ve not been given anything other than a proffer, which alleges all sorts of crimes that they’ve provided us no evidence of.

Can you explain to our listeners what’s a difference between for example a grand jury indictment and just charges?

Sure. The state’s attorney had the option when the indictment was issued of putting on evidence and witnesses in a preliminary hearing that is commonly done in criminal cases. But that would involve the defense attorneys, it would involve the ability to review evidence and to cross-examine witnesses. The state’s attorney didn’t want to do that, so the other option was to call a grand jury in secret without the involvement of the Defense Council and get an indictment that way, and that’s what they did.

Is that going to help the defense out later in the case?

I think a preliminary hearing would have been more helpful to the defense. The fact that they issued an indictment in secret doesn’t really help us at this point and I am not sure it will help us in the future. Everything is shrouded in secrecy, the state’s attorney is unwilling to divulge any information so we are pretty hamstrung at the moment in terms of being able to effectively defend our client.

Would you characterize this as some sort of political prosecution?

It’s definitely a political prosecution: the first words out of the state’s attorney’s mouth at the bond hearing were that these were anarchists, part of so-called “Black Block” and their attempt to politicize their crimes is very evident. There is no evidence that we’ve seen that these people hold any particular political belief but certainly there is no crime against having anarchists beliefs or engaging in activism in your community. These young men should not be put on trial for their political beliefs and if that’s what the state’s attorney is doing, this case is going to evaporate quickly.

By putting that staff out in the press before the bond hearing, for example, are there grounds for dismissing the case entirely?

Certainly, it smacks of politicization and it also indicates that the city was intent on discrediting not only these activists but the Occupy Chicago movement or the Occupy Wall Street movement, even greater than that. There have been other incidents around the country, in which the state has tried to discredit the Occupy movement, but also these arrests happened in advance of the NATO protests so they were in a sense trying to discourage folks from coming out and protesting in the streets.

Do you think that was successful?

I think they did achieve short term objective which was to create hysteria, spread fear and intimidation and discourage people from coming out to protest and it’s difficult to say how many people would have come out to protest if these arrests had not been made and this PR campaign and had not been sort of put forward by the state’s attorney, but we believe that some amount of people have been discouraged and that’s a chilling of people’s First Amendment rights.

Do you think if these charges are successful, that other states will attempt to charge other Occupy activists with similar charges?

There is depending case in Cleveland, in which infiltrators were involved and they are trying to also discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement there by attaching accusations of bomb-making to activists in Cleveland. In each contemporary example of people being arrested for explosives-related crimes, they’ve all involved infiltrators, police informants or undercover cops, and there is real serious question as to whether or not provocation and entrapment was at the root of it.

Do you see the stripping of civil liberties and rights in the US for security reasons continuing?

The Pfizer rules from what I understand have just been renewed, which gives the government the right to tap phone lines without a warrant, without probable cause and I think they were definitely not moving in the right direction in terms of maintaining people’s civil liberties. We have a long way to go to reverse course and return a lot of the rights that we had pre-9/11 that have been eroded over the years through executive order and attorney general guidelines.

Do you think that’s going to happen?

I don’t think it’s going to happen without very concerted effort on the part of civil libertarians and activists that are trying to preserve their constitutional rights.

Thank you.

You were listening to an interview with Kris Hermes, an official spokesperson and legal worker for the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

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