Three men were arrested on terrorism and possession of explosives charges in Chicago Saturday, including one with ties to the Boston area.
Prosecutors say the men were plotting to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and other targets with Molotov cocktails.
The arrests, which happened during a nighttime raid on a Chicago apartment Wednesday, occurred in advance of this weekend’s NATO summit, which has been the subject of protests in the past. Heavy security has so far deterred protesters this year, but major demonstrations are planned for Sunday, the start of the two-day meetings.
One of the suspects, identified by police as Jared Chase, 24, is from Keene, N.H. and spent time in Boston, where he participated in the Occupy Boston protests last fall.
A Facebook page bearing Chase’s name, picture, and other personal information, calls him a DJ and says he is studying 3D animation and game-programming at NHTI, a community college in Concord, N.H.
Chase’s page describes involvement with the Occupy movement, first in Boston, then Providence, R.I., Washington D.C., Miami, and finally Chicago. The page describes Chase being arrested outside the White House, includes commentary about the merits of anti-terror legislation, and threats against police.
“Freedom cannot be destroyed by these corrupt pigs with badges,” one post reads. Another says, “Miami has the most crooked cops in the country. We should execute them before they do something well [sic] regret.”
The Facebook page expresses support for Anonymous, a loose collective of activist computer hackers that has aligned itself with the Occupy movement. Linking to a post about the recent hacking of a Boston Police website, it reads, “[Anonymous] to the rescue!”
Gregg Housh, a leading figure in both Anonymous and the Occupy Boston protests, said Chase’s involvement in Occupy Boston was “an on-and-off thing” and that he “wasn’t around much,” preferring to move from city to city. Housh said several members of the Occupy Boston movement told him that they have not seen or heard from Chase since he left Boston in December last year.
“I can just see the sensationalist headlines: OCCUPY BOSTON GOES TERRORIST!,” Housh wrote in an email. “But I know the groups from Occupy Boston that went [to Chicago] are sticking to their non-violent stance.”
Housh said activists he knows in Chicago planned to meet Saturday night for a protest in solidarity with the three men who were arrested. Housh said some activists believe that the men were set up.
While Housh admitted that there was “some crossover” between Occupy protesters and activists at the NATO summit, he argued that protests against meetings of global leaders were “violent long before Occupy ever showed up on the scene.”
Chase’s aunt, Barbara Chase of Westmoreland, N.H., said that she was shocked by the charges against her nephew.
‘‘That surprised me because he’s not that dumb, at least I wouldn’t have thought so anyway,’’ Barbara Chase, a factory worker, told The Associated Press. ‘‘He always seemed harmless, but who knows? Outside influences sometimes can sway people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do.’’
Chase was arrested along with Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, who authorities initially said was from Oakland Park, Mass. There is no such town, but Betterly has had previous run-ins with authorities in Oakland Park, Fla.
Lawyers for the men denounced the charges, saying that undercover police bought the Molotov cocktails.
“We believe this is all a setup and entrapment to the highest degree,” Michael Deutsch, one of the lawyers, told The Associated Press.
Another post on the Facebook page under Chase’s name mocks the FBI and Miami police for treating him and other protesters like serious criminals.
“We got raided by FBI & Miami Swat last night, everyone detained like terrorits,[sic] yet no arressts [sic] were made,” the post reads in part.