National Lawyers Guild Provides Wrap-up of Police Actions During Week-long NATO Demonstrations
Police violence, serious injuries, high-level charges & exceptionally high bonds symbolize city’s reaction to protests
Chicago, IL — The Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has made an initial assessment of police actions on the streets during the week of NATO demonstrations, which was dominated by police harassment and violence, serious injuries, high-level charges, and exceptionally high bonds. At this time, the NLG estimates that 117 people were arrested, but fewer than 100 were ultimately charged. Of those charged, the vast majority were ordinance violations and misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, trespassing, and resisting arrest. Sixteen people were charged with felonies, including 5 protesters accused of terrorism-related crimes.
The NLG was disturbed to receive reports of more than 70 instances of police brutality, most of which occurred at the end of Sunday’s antiwar march at Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road. Most of the injuries were from baton blows to the body and many resulted in serious head injuries. More than two-dozen protesters were taken to Northwestern and Mercy Hospitals and treated for broken bones, knocked out teeth, concussions, and several open wounds requiring stitches.
“Although police allowed some unpermitted marches to take place without incident, there were massive shows of force by police throughout the week of NATO demonstrations and indiscriminate violence perpetrated against many protesters,” said NLG Chicago spokesperson Kris Hermes.
“Contrary to rhetoric from Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent McCarthy, the city was anything but tolerant to political dissent.” Several activists’ homes and organizing spaces, including the Chicago Independent Media Center and the Wellington Avenue Church where activists converged, were targeted and visited by police. Numerous instances of unconstitutional stops and searches were also reported to the NLG throughout the week.
The first felony case to go to a preliminary hearing was dismissed by a Cook County Judge on Tuesday. Danny Johnson was arrested on May 15th at an immigration rally, charged with felony aggravated assault on a police officer, and held in jail for a week on $10,000 bond. Johnson’s arrest was caught on film by several observers, which may have led to the dismissal of his felony charges. “The dismissal of charges against Danny Johnson certainly raises questions about the veracity of claims against many other NATO protesters,” continued Hermes.
Eleven people are still in custody, including the 5 protesters facing terrorism-related charges. Most of the felony arrestees will have court dates this week and next. The so-called NATO 5 will have hearings on June 12th and 13th at 11:30am in Branch 98 at 26th and California. The NLG staffed a 24-hour legal office during the NATO demonstrations, dispatched Legal Observers to document police misconduct, and is committed to providing legal representation for anyone arrested and facing charges.