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Anti-NATO activists weighed Obama HQ attack: prosecutors
May 19, 2012 / 4:41 PM / in 6 years

Anti-NATO activists weighed Obama HQ attack: prosecutors

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three protesters arrested on terrorism-related charges ahead of the NATO-summit considered targeting U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters and the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, according to court documents released on Saturday.

A police officer patrols a street before the NATO Summit in Chicago May 19, 2012. Leaders from members of the NATO alliance are expected to discuss the worsening situation in Afghanistan, and protest organizers said they hope thousands of people will turn out to demonstrate against the war and other issues such as income inequality. The Summit runs from May 20-21. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

The Chicago Police Department said the men were arrested on Wednesday and were charged on Friday with conspiracy to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism, and possession of an explosive incendiary device.

“As part of their efforts the defendants also possessed and/or constructed improvised explosive incendiary devices and various types of dangerous weapons,” the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in the documents.

The prosecutor’s office said the weapons included a mortar, knives and a hunting bow. It said they also considered attacking police stations and cars in Chicago to disrupt police operations in the two-day NATO summit which begins Sunday.

At Saturday’s hearing, bail was set at $1.5 million for each of the three men, described in the court documents as self-proclaimed anarchists. Their next court appearance was set for May 22.

But supporters of the three men who were arrested in a late-night raid at a residence in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago disputed the charges, saying the men had come to protest the NATO summit peacefully and that the police had confused beer-making equipment with explosives.

Michael Deutsch, an attorney representing the men, also alleged at the hearing that the police had planted weapons at the scene of the arrests.

Barricades blocking the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive over 1km from McCormick Place, the site of the 2012 NATO Summit, are pictured in Chicago May 19, 2012. The Summit runs May 20-21. REUTERS/Frank Polich

“The charges are utterly ridiculous. CPD doesn’t know the difference between home beer-making supplies and Molotov cocktails,” said Natalie Wahlberg, a member of the Occupy Chicago movement protesting over income inequality.

The National Lawyers Guild, the group of volunteer lawyers representing the protesters, said police “broke down doors with guns drawn and searched residences without a warrant or consent,” according to a statement on the group’s Facebook page.

Slideshow (4 Images)

The police department declined to comment on the details of the raid conducted by a special investigation unit.

Thousands of security personnel have been deployed to monitor demonstrations in the week leading up to the two-day NATO summit that starts Sunday. President Barack Obama and representatives from some 60 countries are to discuss the war in Afghanistan and other international security issues.

The three men charged are listed as: Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Betterly, 24, from Massachusetts.

On Friday, roughly 2,500 people protested loudly but peacefully, mostly over economic issues, at a downtown Chicago plaza and throughout the surrounding streets.

Police said more than a dozen people have been arrested related to NATO, mostly for trespassing. One man was arrested during the protests after he climbed a bridge tower to rip down a banner advertising the NATO summit, police said.

Reporting by Eric Johnson; Editing by Jackie Frank

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