Testimony from an undercover police officer in the trial of three activists arrested just prior to the Chicago’s NATO summit in May 2012 and now face terrorism charges, revealed a large surveillance operation Chicago Police had months prior to the summit.
The prosecution alleges the three men were planning to build Molotov cocktails to bring to the protests along with discussing “attacking” several locations, including President Barack Obama’s re-election headquarters and police stations. Police also allege they found several weapons including knives and a throwing star, a mortar made from PVC pipe and a bow during the raid.
Much of the case against the three is based on information garnered from two Chicago Police informants who infiltrated local activist groups many weeks prior to the NATO protests. Known as “Moe” and “Gloves,” the prosecution alleges the two officers were inside the apartment where Church, Chase and Betterly were staying when they say they filled beer bottles with gasoline. One of the defendants allegedly asked “Gloves” if she was “ready to see a police officer on fire,” prosecutors say.
Defense attorney’s also asked Chikko about surveillance activities leading up to the NATO protests in May 2012. Testimony from Chikko revealed Chicago Police had been running surveillance for at least two months prior to the NATO summit in Chicago. As early as March of 2012, police went to coffee shops and punk shows searching for opportunities to infiltrate activist groups. According to Firedoglake journalist Kevin Gosztola, at one point, six officers were listening in on conversations of patrons at the Heartland Cafe. Additionally, Chikko said police kept an eye on Division Street and Permanent Records for “anarchists and criminal activity.” Chikko admitted that police had taken down license plates at a punk show prior to the summit. “If there was license plates, we’d record them,” she said. As to why, Chikko replied “we’re police officers. That’s what we do.”
Much of Chikko’s testimony seemed to be about mincing words. Referring to the annual May Day march, Defense Attorney Michael Deutsch asked the officer “You infiltrated that demonstration?” Chikko replied “No, sir. I’m not an infiltrator. I’m an undercover officer.” She later said “We weren’t looking for anarchists. We were looking for people who want to call themselves anarchists appearing as peaceful protesters, sir.” Chikko admitted her and her partner attended Occupy Chicago meetings. When asked if officers were assigned to “spy on Occupy Chicago and anarchists,” she replied “no, observe and listen for criminal activity.”
The defense asked about surveillance of activist communities by police in the months prior to the summit because the police department had a large-scale operation. This was part of determining what resources, money and personnel, needed to be allocated for security during the summit. So, they chose to spy on activist communities to figure out who they needed to watch to prevent violence.
However, much of this would be unnecessary. The city of Chicago was preparing to host both the G8 and NATO meetings on May 15 and May 19 respectively. Obama made a decision in March to move the G8 meeting to Camp David without giving all that much of an explanation for why the location was changed. The suspicion the defense has is it was moved because there was worry about the possibility of police in Chicago being seen beating up protesters.