Friday, November 06, 2009

Statement from Attorney Martha Conrad Regarding November 1st at the EHSC

I am a lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois for the last 23 years.

I was present at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago [EHSC] on November 1st. I personally witnessed the entire incident leading to the arrest and can lay out the salient facts of what occurred at EHSC that day.

That morning, I entered the building behind Ms. Taylor and others about ten minutes before the 10:30 am program was to start. No one at any time told Ms. Taylor, the videographer or anyone else that they could not enter the event, which was advertised as being “free and open to the public.”

I was close to Ms. Taylor and the videographer the whole time. Ms. Taylor entered the auditorium and sat down. A man, who I later learned was the director of EHSC, came over to talk to Ms. Taylor and told the videographer who was videotaping the interaction to turn off the video camera. He did so. At no time, did the director or anyone else ask Ms. Taylor or the videographer to leave. After talking briefly to the director, and before the official EHS program was to start, Ms. Taylor stood next to her chair and began making a short statement challenging the decision by the EHS to “disinvite” her. At no time during her statement was she told to stop. After approximately two minutes, the police came into the auditorium and Ms. Taylor stated, “I’m going to be leaving now.” At that time the videographer appeared to be recording Ms. Taylor’s statement with a cell phone. I then saw a uniformed police officer and a man in a baseball hat grab the videographer by each arm. I didn’t hear either give any instruction or warning. They proceeded to roughly pull on his arms as they took him out of the room. (Later, the man in the baseball hat identified himself to me as a police officer who had been hired to be there.)

I followed them to the hallway, and saw officers repeatedly batter him. I turned away for a moment, and when I looked back the videographer was down on the floor. The police pulled him down the hallway and out of my sight. I pushed past some other people in the hallway and entered the foyer. I saw 4-5 officers piled on top of the videographer as he lay face down on the floor. I loudly announced I was a lawyer, and called out to them that the man had done nothing illegal. I demanded that they stop battering him.

There were so many officers on top of him that it was difficult to see him. But I did see the officers bash his head against the floor at least twice. They twisted his arms behind his back and handcuffed him. A couple of minutes later, after the officers had taken the videographer outside and were putting him in the police car, I observed that one side of his face and neck was scratched up. One of his eyes was violently red and tears were pouring out of that eye and down his cheek.

At no time was the videographer aggressive toward the police officers. At no time did he resist arrest.

A sergeant on the scene approached me and claimed, gesturing to EHSC and the EHSC people in front of it, “These people here are doing this. It is not us.”

I went to the Skokie police station, where the videographer was taken. When I arrived I saw an ambulance there. I identified myself as a lawyer, announced my concern for the videographer’s medical condition, and demanded to see him. I was not allowed to do so. The same sergeant who I had seen at EHSC came out and spoke to me in the waiting room. He told me he had called the ambulance due to the videographer’s injuries. The videographer declined going to the hospital in the ambulance and flushed his own eyes of a chemical spray they had used on him.

The videographer is charged with criminal trespass to property, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. These are very serious charges and totally unwarranted. Later that afternoon, the videographer was released after a collection was taken up to pay his bond. Immediately upon his release, he went to Skokie Hospital where doctors treated his multiple injuries to his head, chest and wrists. His case is set for November 18th, and I ask that you join in demanding that these unfounded charges be immediately dropped!

Martha Conrad

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posted by Sunsara Taylor at 9:54 AM


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