The NATO 3 and Free Speech


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger

You may recall the demonstrations against the NATO Summit that was taking place in Chicago in May of 2012.  On May 16th, 2012, the Chicago Police Department made a military style raid on an apartment where several demonstrators were staying during the Summit.

“On May 16, 2012, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) conducted a violent midnight preemptive raid of an apartment housing 11 activists. Two of them, it would later be exposed, were actually undercover informants working on behalf of the CPD.  Staying in an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, the activists were in town to protest the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit, held May 20-21.  The military-style raid led to the eventual charging of three of those activists in the Windy City to protest the NATO Summit with conspiracy to commit acts of domestic terrorism and other related charges – under Illinois’ terrorism statutein the form of a legal bail proffer. It was the first time the law – passed in haste by the Illinois legislature after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – had ever been used.”  Truthout  

For the purposes of understanding the issues here, I highly recommend reading the Illinois terrorism statute that is linked above.  The defendant’s counsel from the aptly named Peoples Law Office, are attacking this state terrorism statute on constitutional grounds which will constitute the first time any state terrorism statute has been challenged on these grounds.  The Defendants are claiming that the statute is constitutionally vague and when you read the statute, you may agree with their claim.  “Illinois’ terrorism statute defines terrorism, as the “intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of a civilian population.” Left undefined are the concepts found within the definition itself: “intimidate or coerce,” “significant portion,” and “civilian population.”  Truthout

Isn’t Free Speech supposed to allow any of us the right to challenge the government by trying to convince fellow citizens through our speech, as long as our speech does not amount to yelling Fire in a crowded theater?   I am not surprised that the statute may be vague in light of the hysteria after the 9/11 attacks, but I am surprised that this is the first time any State’s terrorism statutes have been challenged.   I thought Free Speech was still guaranteed in this country by the First Amendment.  What would the NRA do if gun activists were indicted under a State statute that prohibited the use of their weapons within the state?  I think we have already seen what they would do and how the judiciary would respond.

“The lack of narrowly tailored definitions of these concepts has left the People’s Law Office to conclude that the state’s definition of terrorism is “vague and standard-less … (which) allows for the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law.” In the case of the NATO 3, the People’s Law Office argues that they were slapped with these overly broad charges “based on their political views and the political motivations and predilections of the police and prosecutors.”

Given these facts on the ground, the defense argued that the current terrorism law on the books in the Land of Lincoln violates US and state-level constitutional law both on due process and First Amendment grounds due to its sheer vagueness.” Truthout

The NATO 3 defendants have an uphill battle in convincing the court on the constitutional vagueness grounds due to the fact that most courts have given deference to executive actions related to “terrorism” cases.  Just what constitutes terrorism?  Should mere words and peaceful demonstrations be considered terrorism?  If protesting against the NATO Summit is terrorism, wouldn’t the Nazi’s marching in Skokie have been considered terrorism as well, if the statute was in place at the time? The defendants claim that the police informants were responsible in procuring the offensive materials that they are being charged with having in their possession.  How far can police undercover operatives go before it is entrapment?

Would the Civil Rights March in Selma have constituted terrorism under this allegedly vague statute?  Is this statute just another attempt by government to control what we say and how we think?  Is the First Amendment dead in Illinois if this statute is allowed to stand, or just merely wounded?  Am I subject to charges under this allegedly vague statute for suggesting that these alleged terrorists were merely exercising their First Amendment rights?  What do you think?

Additional Sources:  CNN; Firedoglake

38 thoughts on “The NATO 3 and Free Speech”

  1. It is time. Time to take back control of our country and to liberate our Bill of Rights from the corrupt whom have hijacked it. Whether their intentions were noble or not, is irrelevant. They need to be removed from power regardless.

    It is time to have a Revolution in America. It does not need to be violent. We can change over the people in our govt without violence. We just need to make sure they leave.

    Afterwards the only changes we need to make to the system is to insure that our Liberties are restored and protected against future encroachment.

    It is time for both the Liberals and Conservatives, leftwing and rightwing, and all that remain in the middle, to set aside our differences, cease arguing over trivial issues and rise up together and unite as one loud strong voice. We must not allow them to racially divide us.
    It is time to become brothers in voice and if need be, in arms. In this hour we must not speak softly, but loudly, while still wielding a big stick.

    It is time to take Big Brother and crush it. It is time to take tyranny and drive it from our govt and from our shores. It is time to show the world that we truly are the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave….and not merely land of the fat, disinterested and preoccupied with our plastic toys.

    It is time to decide whether we are nation of cowards who wish to maintain their status quo and not risk their material possessions. Or whether we are a nation of Freemen who willingly would sacrifice our homes, our plasma tvs and our iphones and then lay down our lives if need be, to insure that our children and grandchildren can live their lives in a land of true Liberty.

    Our country is teetering on the edge of the descent into Fascism. A monstrous hybrid of Totalitarianism and Corporatocracy. It must be stricken and driven to oblivion.

  2. Rafflaw:

    We frequently disagree, but thanks for writing this article.

    The Bill of Rights is under assault and we all have to speak up.

    Illinois has a long history of shredding the Bill of Rights in the name of “law enforcement”; look at the ’68 Democratic convention in Chicago, or the harassment of citizens recording police actions.

  3. leejcaroll,
    that is scary stuff, but there are enough cameras on the street to keep an eye on us all.

  4. Under the statute, wouldn’t the “sequester” qualify as terrorism? Obama warning of dire consequences?

    It seems it would be key to consider that a state at its core represents little more than a monopoly on the legitimate use of force as a means of coercion, and that terrorist threats aimed at moving political opinion use violence in a way that subverts this legitimate monopoly.

    But the deference to these statutes is totally un called for: bombing power lines, driving a car through a crowd, taking potshots at airplanes landing with a high powered rifle, jihadist shooting sprees are all easy ways to a terrorist to apply fear. These are all simple ways of instilling terror, they are difficult to defend against, and… don’t seem to be a problem. At all.

    What does seem to be a problem is the number of high profile terror plots that involved FBI informants as key members of the plots. The FBI is instilling terror to justify terror laws.

  5. rafflaw 1, March 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for the link Dredd.
    You are welcome sir.

    Each of those COM areas is larger than the continental U.S. and one of them covers half of the globe.

    When warmongers talk about size of government they mean civilian government.

    They have the civilian government in their sights now.

  6. Can we use this statute to arrest the President the next time he is in the state on one of his campaign tours? Isn’t he trying to coerce a significant portion of the populace into his way of thinking? Hasen’t his administration used language that intimidates (you will “regret”…,”enemies” of this bill… etc.).

  7. Leave a little room…. And void for vagueness could apply…

  8. Is it still innocent until proven guilty, or has that been overthrown? Are we now guilty until proven innocent?

    Of course we may be able to get some more FBI provacateurs in to help get something going. We’ve certainly had that before!

    I really think they have enough cops there to handle whatever could possibly happen. Of course, that will probably consist of innocent peaceful protesters having their heads bashed in. Or being shot with rubber bullets, etc.

  9. Darren,
    I don’ t have your trust in the CPD. You are assuming that the defendants planned to use the contraband. There is no hard evidence of that, other than the police agents. Ths type of mass arrests are happening across the country and are being coordinated by the DOJ and are used to deflect dissent. The arrests in the many Occupy incidents is evidence of that.

  10. Lawrence:

    The police undercover agents bringing, whatever it was, but dangerous components to the instigators can be argued about for entrapment purposes but what lead to this? If the criminal actors made the initial effort to solicit the acquisition of the contraband to the undercover agents, I would say the state’s case is golden. But if before any of the ciminality began, the state seeded in the minds of the actors the idea to procure the weaponry that would be problematic.

    LE and anti terrorist units, moreso in England, provide this more readily than their US conterparts, often waiting until the last moment to bring down the police action and prosecution. Maybe this makes the case better in their legal system but it is a practice they seem to follow.

    IT does make the case a bit more solid to actually ahve the actors receive the contraband weapons they had agreed to use in their plans.

    I think we will have to wait until additional evidence is brought forward. This information we have seen in the Bond hearing document is just to bring the elements of the probable cause to light and is not indicative of the full weight of the evidence which I belive, at least should, be far more convincing.

    Additionally, I believe it was prudent to bring the arrests before the event took place with the NATO conferencedue to the exigency of shutting down a suspected group that could bring forth a terrorist act. Often it could be the case where there are ancilliary actors that could further the mission but in taking down the leadership it would lessen this possibility (if it was the case)

    I think it is also important to know that whatever the shortcomings of this particular prosecutor’s office is, we should not blind ourselves to any substantial threats that could be legitimately articulated, hence the public suffers a great tradgedy because the loss of credibility of the prosecutor’s office causes a fatal delay.

  11. Darren,
    Thanks for your comments, but just because the states attorney claims that there was a conspiracy does not make it so. There is evidence that the police undercover agents brought the dangerous materials to the residence and not the defendants. This arrest and the series of arrests just prior to the summit were intended to prevent peaceful protests from happening. A lot of prior arrests and very few charges brought. What does that tell you? I smell an Alvarez rat. Those scary words that are claimed to be evidence of a dangerous conspiracy are just words without hard evidence.
    It doesn’t surprise you that this s te first time in over 10 years that this statute was invoked?

  12. Lawrence:

    Thank you for bringing these important constitutional issues up for discussion but I have to disagree on whether or not this might be constitutionally vague in this particular incident, though I do understand where you are coming from.

    In reading the Proffer in support of setting bond / Probable Cause statement. I am supporting the state’s cause for action, in summary I read that the group / individuals charged had planned to commit terrorist acts against local government and its property as well as campaign headquarters of the Barack Obama federal election effort. The defendants recruited others to further their criminal activity and possessed illegal improvised explosive devices and contraband weaponry. Statements were made to the effect of “The city does not know what it is in for” and “..the city will never be the same.”

    Mentioned in the PC statement were reference to Molotov Cocktails, prohibited as a destructive device under United States Code. It is likely that federal charges can also be levied under USC due to interstate commerce carriers or if weapons were carried in such.

    There were references made in such that the feds can invoke “National Security” exceptions to some of the conspiracy and statements for immement threats demonstrated. I don’t know if this is the case, but my believe is it would be reasonable to assume that it is.

    Again, I only have information as to what was described in the PC statement so that is what I am going on.

    The points you make in your article here are that it might be a free speech issue, and an example given as the Nazi group exercising their free speech rights. In this case I feel the main thrust of the prosecution was the conspiracy to commit the physical terroristic acts and the element of coercion of the population and intimidation of the population was the lesser thrust. I would agree that in this case it was warranted based upon the overt acts and procurement of the contraband weaponry and statments made to cause alarm in the population which could reasonably be construed to be menacing. Coupled with the terrorist preparations, I believe it is a valid prosecution that is not protected by free speech.

    The fact that according to the evidence you have brought forward, that this was the first time it was used. Actually from another point of view somewhat shows that it hasn’t been abused (at least that we know of) since it was prosecuted coupled with actual overt acts.

    Certainly this law could be worrisome if it was enforced in the way for which you are showing concern, and it would be unconstitutional to apply it to other fringe groups who as you write might only be to offer an alternative to a form of governance through advocacy of a different political structure. But in this case, I feel the application of the law has merit.

    I believe this has merit to bring to trial and to remand the defendants to the bail requested.

  13. AP, this is sickening and disgusting.

    I saw an interview of a man from Poland a while back. It could even have been on here. He was saying that things are worse here than they were under the communists in Poland. Talking about TSA, and things like this going on. The laws of our land are no longer being followed by those in charge. Total police state!

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