By RA Monaco
It was the equivalent of a “slow plea” and intended to be a public spectacle start-to-finish. The #NATO 3 trial had a purpose and it wasn’t to protect the public from these immature sling-shot-packing young men.
I describe the trial as sort of a “slow plea” because clearly there was conduct by Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly that would cross legal boundaries—their lawyers knew.
On the other hand, did prosecutors make any meaningful attempt to dispose of this case before trial—other than “plead-to-the-sheet?” Surely, the prosecution should have recognized that these sling-shot-packing goofs were just young, drunk and angry about their lack of future in a failing economy?
Not Terrorism Not Terrorists
Judging by the post trial display of disappointment by Anita Alvarez, my guess is the only choices given were go to trial or “plead-to-the-sheet.” While I really don’t know that as fact, it seems clear, reasonable people could have resolved this case—easily!
Somehow, defense attorneys got their clients to stand in solidarity with one another for a larger, more important public concern, and the jury spoke—they were not terrorists and their conduct was not terrorism. So how is it that the prosecution couldn’t see that? Or, did they have another purpose?
We each owe our sincere gratitude to Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly because they were sacrificed for a larger and important cause—our right to public dissent. Cherished and fundamental to our founding as a nation, public dissent is the cornerstone of democracy. Without it we’ll remain indentured servants to the plutocracy whose money now controls the loyalty of our elected government.
In a small way, the public won the #NATO 3 trial but more realistically the “chilling of public dissent” was the bigger win.
Chilling Dissent: A Spectacle of Purpose
The #NATO 3 trial had a purpose—to discourage dissent, civil disobedience or protest and put the world on notice of the potential consequences, even for the well meaning.
Ask yourself now, honestly, are you still willing to stand up for economic or political change against an unjust system in the face of an army of police officers in riot gear and sleazy undercover tactics, with the uncertain threat of protracted incarceration and prosecution?
Should we continue to believe that we can protest peacefully without infiltration of police provocateurs? This is to say nothing of the surveillance state that records our location, phone conversations and every keystroke. Is it fantasy to think that because we don’t intend to be violent or unlawful that we’ll be able to avoid trouble?
Controlling the Message: A Media Spectacle
On the day of the NATO protests, below Papa John’s Pizza at Michigan and Cermak, I witnessed an army of uniformed officers in riot gear outnumbering protesters five-to-one.
They demanded the crowd disperse and then exit through one five foot opening at the west end of the assembly area. Most people really didn’t know which way to go. The impossibility of the protesters exiting all at once created confusion.
Exiting through one opening in the barricade the size of a double door was unrealistic by design. When the crowd didn’t move out fast enough the police began to use their batons working from east to west.
In front of me, an unprovoked officer struck a woman in the face with his night stick and then struck the medic who came to her aid over the top of his head. I held on to a tree to keep from being knocked to the ground—who were the real trouble makers, the provocateurs?
Did any of you see that on Fox television? Did broadcast television show you the army of police that waited for protestors just beyond the barricades at the west end of the protest site? Or the bus loads of ninja-turtle-suited officers coming up from the rear and staged along the side streets surrounding the protest site?
What you saw was what they wanted you to see—Officers needing water because of heat exhaustion and news casters talking about trouble makers. Did anyone hear the media talking to the people about social change, economics or the real reasons they came to protest?
A Trial of Insincerity: Another Spectacle
We should see the #NATO 3 trial for what was intended—a spectacle. We should recognize by now, that it was always a case that could have been plea bargained at a pretrial hearing—finished.
Surely, Brian Church, Jared Chase, Brent Betterly and their lawyers weren’t looking to drag this case out for almost two full years so they could have a trial.
We should realize that the public is being victimized by an insidious system that is ultimately held in place by the threat and exercise of very real violence and the concentration of very material wealth and power in the hands of a ruling class—a plutocracy.
The trial and spectacle of the #NATO 3 served their purpose—control.
Economics behind the Spectacle: The War on Working Families
It’s a war to be sure. It’s a war on working families and the poor—to keep people down.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that the number of Americans who have not been able to find jobs in six months or more remains at record levels across the country. That is not just a tragedy for them, it's a tragedy for all of us and completely unnecessary.
It doesn’t matter which politician is doing the talking, there’s only one job for every three persons unemployed. Congress foolishly allowed benefits for long-term unemployed workers to expire last month for 1.5 million people exacerbating the plight of the jobless.
Another 2 million will exhaust their benefits by the end of 2014. Unemployed workers will now lose any support after only six months, the maximum duration of unemployment insurance benefits in most states.
Politicians don’t really want to raise the Federal minimum wage even though it is 25% below what it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation. They’re against extending Medicaid Benefits to millions of low wage workers. They refuse to invest in education and job training and they don’t want to invest in rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure or any jobs program. They want to crush unions and take away your voice.
When does President Obama start walking the talk? He already signed the Farm Bill cutting Food Stamps for millions. Is that what he meant by a year of action? He’s always behaved as a corporatist even when he had majorities of Democrats in both houses. You can't blame that on the Republicans either. Both parties have the same agenda. They just go about it in different ways.
They’re Scared: The Spectacle of Distracting
Although they are skilled at distracting the public and themselves from the truth, the façade is crumbling. There are signs that more people see through it all and that makes controlling public’s willingness to dissent a paramount concern.
Consider the justifiable avalanche of critical analysis of Obama’s State of the Union which we’ve not seen in years prior. The reality is that the current economic and political systems are in crisis.
The economy will not recover and the government cannot function to meet people’s needs or to protect the planet. Structural changes are needed but the power elites are addicted to the current system. Politicians happily funnel more wealth to the top with confidence that their own pockets will be filled.
As the middle class descends those at the top are more fearful. They lie to protect themselves. The investor and political classes are keenly aware of our national awakening. Remember the hundreds of Occupy encampments—they haven’t forgotten.
The war is to keep people down because when you’re unemployed, without any support, without any bargaining power having to eat and feed your family—you’ll be desperate. When you’re desperate you’ll take whatever they are willing to pay you—even if it's next to nothing.
Surely you’re not about to make a fuss, you won’t try to form a union or complain about work conditions or toxic leaks or anything that could rock-the-boat. You’ll avoid getting involved in politics and you’ll take whatever they choose to give you because little by little, year after year, you’re descending economically and beginning to drown.
The Spectacle: Austerity
While median household incomes have barely budged since the mid-1960s, the annual income of the top 1 percent has increased by an average of approximately 200 percent in real terms.
America has been busy transforming itself into an unabashed plutocracy and the lessons of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal have not penetrated the Washington mind set. Even in the face of a shrinking deficit, austerity hawks continue to battle on for cutting more government jobs and obstructing every attempt to invest in our hard-working citizens—our most precious asset.
A Public Spectacle to Protect: Themselves
Thanks to Obama’s consistent and dedicated service to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and empire our enemies are not 7,000 miles away. They are right here in Chicago and other places around the country, they sit in boardrooms, they are CEO’s, they are bankers, the hedge fund managers and the politicians who do their bidding, they are right here and we look at them every day.
The spectacle was never about Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly who came to Chicago to stand up for economic and social change, to protest and vent their frustration at the bleakness of their future. While we shouldn’t, in any way, condone the criminality of their decisions or even their immaturity, it isn’t difficult to accept their sense of futility and frustration.
Demand an Assessment of Accountability
The #NATO 3 trial had a purpose—to “chill dissent” and then to justify the colossal expenditure of public money—our money!
There should be an independent special commission to assess the actual cost of 2012 Summit and to provide a public accounting. Let’s find out what the real costs of the 2012 NATO Summit was to the City of Chicago and make sure, that it was not our resolve to publicly dissent for social and economic change.