Three men formerly associated with Occupy Fort Lauderdale were charged today in Chicago with 11 counts, including conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of explosives, and attempted arson. Each is being held on a $1.5 million bond awaiting trial, possibly as early as this month.
Brian Church and Brent Betterly are from Fort Lauderdale and Oakland Park, while Jared Chase is from New Hampshire. They're accused of making Molotov cocktails to be used during the May NATO convention in Chicago. All three are in their early 20s, and their friends and attorneys say they are peaceful activists who were set up by federal informants. Friends say the four "Molotov cocktails" seized by the feds was actually beer-brewing equipment.
In an MSNBC piece by former New Times writer Thomas Francis, people who knew the trio in Fort Lauderdale expressed disbelief that the young men would have been involved in any kind of "terrorist" plot.
But the arrests apparently didn't quench the thirst of the feds for actionable intelligence: Shortly after Francis' piece was published, some of the people interviewed were allegedly tracked and questioned by law enforcement.
Prosecutors revealed that they have an audio recording, allegedly of the defendants talking about a bomb plot. Federal and local agencies spent a fortune on security patrols and intelligence at the NATO summit, although protests were largely peaceful.
But anxiety and misinformation remain. In today's story about the charges, the Sun-Sentinel describes the men as "members of an anarchist group known as Black Bloc." Black Bloc isn't a group but rather a widely used protest tactic in which people dress uniformly in black, often with masks, in an attempt to dilute the attention of police officers and match the visual solidarity of their uniforms.
"Two other alleged members of Black Bloc face unrelated charges stemming from the investigation," adds the Sun-Sentinel.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!