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VIDEO: Mark Neiweem Beaten by Cook County Guards, Placed in Solitary (#NATO5)

6:08 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell


I’ve written before about political prisoners of the Occupy movement and Kevin Gosztola of The Dissenter has also written about this case, but the latest development is an especially disturbing one. Mark Neiweem is one of 5 activists charged preemptively in the lead-up to May’s NATO protests in Chicago; he is accused of “felony offense of solicitation for possession of explosives or explosive or incendiary devices,” in part based on the testimony of two police infiltrators. According to new reports from Occupy Chicago, Neiweem, better known as ‘Migs,’ was beaten by Cook County Guards and, after his release from the hospital, immediately placed in solitary confinement:

Mark Neiweem, (pronounced Nye-wame) one of the NATO5, was badly beaten by Cook County Jail Guards and placed in solitary confinement, “the hole,” for 20+ days. His lawyer confirmed that Mark spent the night in Cermak Hospital. He has stitches, his face is swollen and bruised. his ribs are sore but not broken. We, his activists and friends, cannot let this atrocity of state abuse stand.

I am in Chicago, so I asked Rachel Unterman, an occupier who has been heavily involved in supporting these political prisoners, to speak with me about the incident. According to Rachel, Migs has spent his time inside educating fellow prisoners, but it is unclear what, if anything, could have triggered this horrible attack.

Occupy Chicago has gone public with the story today, and is asking people to take action:

We are calling on every person around the world to telephone Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart at (312) 603-6444 and ask to speak with him, demanding:

What happened to Mark Neiweem?
Why was Mark Neiweem beaten so severely that he was admitted to Cermak hospital overnight?
Remove Mark from the hole now!

As Rachel points out, a great way to support the NATO 5 is by writing letters and sending pictures. OChi’s Free the NATO 5 website has a guide to writing letters to these prisoners. Occupy Austin’s Braettie Ledezma has led an effort to write to political prisoners worldwide, including Migs and other members of the NATO 5. She told me:

It’s been a cathartic experience writing to prisoners in general, but writing to Migs has been different in the way that he manages to make a strong  but very warm personality light up his letters from his first reply. He has a willingness to share things with an unapologetic honesty, and I found that delightful. He shows a determination to not allow his circumstances to defeat him and even though he has grim struggles; he takes a genuine interest in the welfare of others. The courage of these guys who write to me is amazing, and Migs has no shortage of courage.

Free the NATO5!

Occupy’s Political Prisoners

12:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Among the many signs of the profound threat that the Occupy movement poses to the status quo has been the coordinated effort by local and state police together with the Department of Homeland Security to suppress the rights of protesters. The United Nations recently criticized the United States for its violent police attacks on the movement.

In the month since the pre-NATO arrests, a new tool in the arsenal is becoming clear: turning dedicated activists into political prisoners.

Occupy Wall Street, Trinity Wall Street, and the December 17 Trial

Sign: Mark Adams is Bearded, Selfless, Defends the Poor, Persecuted. Remind you of Anyone?

Photo: @SubVerzo via Twitter, used with permission.

On December 17, Occupy Wall Street attempted a reoccuptation — not of Liberty Square, but of a new space. Climbing a fence on livestream, occupiers poured into a fenced-in space owned by Trinity Wall Street, a church-run business that is historically one of New York City’s oldest landlords. The trial of 8 of these occupiers, including a retired bishop and active clergy members, concluded on June 18. Seven of the defendants, including the clergy, were convicted of trespassing and sentenced to four days of community service. But one man, Mark Adams, was singled out for especially harsh treatment.

The Village Voice quotes Judge Sciarrino’s justification for his harshness:

He issued his his ruling immediately after closing arguments, finding all eight defendants guilty of trespassing and further finding one of them, Mark Adams, guilty of attempted criminal mischief and attempted criminal possession of burglar’s tools. Adams was seen on surveillance video using what appeared to be bolt cutters to open the fence.

“This was the use of siege equipment to storm a castle,” Sciarrino said in his ruling, adding that political demonstrations are no excuse for violating property rights. “This nation is founded on the right of private property, and that right is no less important than the first amendment.”

Though the district attorney asked for a mere 30 days, the judge instead chose to charge Adams with 45 days in New York’s dangerous Rikers’ Island! Although activists who practice civil disobedience must expect to face legal consequences from time to time, occupiers are surprised by the harsh treatment from Trinity Wall Street, a business theoretically built on Christian values. The Episcopal News Service quotes Bishop George Packard:

In a June telephone interview, Packard had expressed surprise at the trespassing charges and the manner of his arrest. When he entered the property Dec. 17, he said, “I felt that we were entering into a protected area and that it was closed for the season. I had visited hunger strikers on the perimeter of that space … three or four times. …”

“Trespass is a word that I’m not used to hearing as it’s related to church property,” Packard said. “I hear expressions like ‘refuge’ and ‘sanctuary,’ and even … in the Trinity newsletter they talk about ‘radical hospitality.’”

The Continuing Plight of the NATO 5

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