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GLNer Andy Thayer NOT GUILTY In Felony Trial!!

GLN permalink posted May 6, 2009

Yesterday Gay Liberation Network co-founder Andy Thayer was found NOT GUILTY in a felony trial on charges of "aggravated battery on a police officer" for his part in an anti-war action during the January 7, 2008 visit of President George W. Bush to Chicago.

On that day Chicago's elite – from Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cardinal George on down – rolled out the red carpet to greet the man responsible for the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis, 10s of thousands of Afghanis, and 4000+ Americans. The "Bush 4" protesters – Andy, Buddy Bell, Kevin Clark and Jeff Pickert – attempted to stretch an anti-war banner denouncing these crimes across the path of Bush's motorcade as he left the swank Union League Club in the Loop.

The protest was a pointedly non-violent action against the mass violence organized by George Bush. Yet senior Chicago Police Department personnel decided to make an example of Andy by slapping phony felony charges on him which caused him heavy legal fees, 16 months of travel restrictions and numerous court dates. In doing so, their actions fit a pattern of systematic Chicago police harassment of anti-war organizers that started with the mass arrest of 800+ at the start of the Iraq war in March of 2003.

Every year on the anniversary of the invasion, Andy and other anti-war organizers have had to wage pitched legal battles against the police department simply to win the right to legally march. Most years we've won those battles, only to be surrounded by intimidating riot-clad cops on the days of these 1st Amendment-protected protests. During the six-plus years since the start of the Iraq war, Andy and other Chicago activists have faced repeated arrests simply for exercising the right to assemble against the wars. The CPD / anti-war clashes have become so frequent that Chicago anti-war organizers and senior CPD officials now know each other by name, with one of the witnesses against Andy, Deputy Commander James Keating, testifying yesterday that he'd seen Andy on "about 50" occasions since the January 2008 protest.

On January 7, 2008, thanks to videotape surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security (whoever thought we'd say that?!?) subpoenaed by Andy's defense attorney, Joshua Kutnick, it was clear that Andy did not commit the felonies that senior CPD officers accused him of. Rather, those officers crafted a tale of Andy striking Deputy Commander James Keating despite the videotape evidence to the contrary.

The prosecution called two witnesses, Keating and Lieutenant Paul Macke, who both claimed to see Andy use his shoulder to strike Keating's chest, even though Keating's chest was protected by the protruding bar of his segway vehicle and the Homeland Security video showed no such contact.

"Keating lied on the stand about my striking him and his not writing the report of my arrest," said Andy. "I personally watched him for about two hours ghost-write that report for his two assistant underlings, Officers Mota and Murray, as I sat handcuffed behind clear plexiglass literally two feet away from him. The report was so poorly written that the desk sergeant rejected it at least three times before finally accepting it. In the end, prosecuting attorneys apparently felt that the narrative part of the report was so weak, not even alleging the felonies that I was charged with, that they didn't introduce its alleged authors, Mota and Murray, as witnesses, thus making the report itself hearsay evidence which neither side could use for their case."

It is normal procedure for officers personally witnessing felonies to write reports about what they witnessed. For Keating and Macke to say that they saw no cause to write such reports about Andy's alleged felonies that they had allegedly personally witnessed – in the center of the city's business district – during a visit of the U.S. President no less – is just further evidence that the felony charges were trumped up.

"They had no case, and yet they chose to stubbornly pursue it, knowing that it would cost our side scarce resources that we could ill afford, while they could count on public tax dollars to pay for the harassment of anti-war forces, even though the public itself is overwhelmingly anti-war," said Andy.

"I can only say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all who supported me in court and with their financial donations despite this severe recession. This is truly a victory for all of us working together, and I deeply appreciate all who made it happen."

"And yet with all the court drama, police harassment, and even yesterday's victory, I think that it's crucial that we not lose sight of the most important issues – that these wars orchestrated by our leading politicians of both parties have killed 1 million-plus and robbed whole nations of their right to self-determination. Kevin, Buddy, Jeff and I did our January 2008 action because we wanted to stop this murder. But now we've now got a new president and yet more of the same – a continued, indefinite occupation of Iraq, a continued siege of Gaza, an expansion of the Afghanistan war, and now, a dramatically expanded war into Pakistan as well. Is this 'change' we can believe in? Hell no!"


Check out Erica Chu's photostream of the aftermath of yesterday's victory!!


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