By Steve Gunn
CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Police Department were obviously working in tandem last Wednesday, and EAGnews reporter Jeremy Segal was an unwanted party crasher.
Why else would the police arrest two union supporters for allegedly assaulting Segal during a union protest, then turn around and let them go without pursuing charges?
Segal was in Chicago Wednesday to film and interview protesters participating in a downtown rally against the planned closing of 54 public schools.
The rally was sponsored by the radical Chicago Teachers Union. Segal spent part of his time interviewing CTU President Karen Lewis, who stood mute for most of his questions, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who answered a few.
A while after his first encounter with Lewis and Jackson, Segal noticed a banner at the head the protest march representing the International Socialist Organization. He returned to where Lewis and Jackson were walking together, hoping to ask Jackson a question about the propriety of protesting with socialists.
That’s when things got a little ugly.
Three men staked out a position in front of Segal, blocking his ability to speak to Lewis and Jackson. Shouting “keep it moving, keep it moving,” the men grabbed at Segal’s coat and equipment and pushed him down a sidewalk on the 200 block of Clark Street in a thuggish fashion.
“It was a coordinated effort to bulldoze me out of there,” said Segal, who acknowledged hitting one of the men in the chest in an attempt at self-defense. “It was designed to make it look like they were clearing the way for (Lewis, Jackson and Congressman Bobby Rush), but the path was fairly clear. It was just a cover for them to come after me.”
The incident was witnessed by Chicago parent Toni Stith, who was protesting with CTU but was troubled by the way Segal was treated. She told a police officer that she saw one of the men strike Segal, and Segal indicated he wanted to press charges.
“We were walking and (Segal) was trying to interview people,” Stith told EAGnews. “They were telling people not to talk to him, and they were putting things in front of his camera and face.
“He started interviewing me, they were trying to put their hands in front of my face, and I was giving my information when I saw them hitting (Segal).”
Segal said he doesn’t remember being struck, “but there was rough pushing and shoving. They were grabbing my camera, microphone and jacket.”
Two of the three men were handcuffed and arrested, and for a while it seemed as though they would be held accountable for their behavior.
Now we’re not so sure.
While still on the scene, Segal said he was asked by two police officers to sign a blank complaint form. He refused and headed for the police station at 17th and State streets.
By the time Segal reached the police station, the two men were being released. There was no indication that they were charged with any type of crime, Segal said.
“I went inside to fill out and sign a complaint, and there was no complaint for me to fill out and sign,” Segal said. “An officer told me that if I wanted a court date I would have to go to the courthouse and ask a state’s attorney to ask a judge to grant a warrant for their arrest.”
Segal said he went to a police station on South State Street to get a copy of the incident report filled out by police. The copy he obtained had just about all of the information blacked out, except Segal’s name, which was improperly spelled “Senegal.”
The accounts of the witness, and the two accused men, were blacked out, according to Segal.
“It just showed one line that said I was pushed down the street,” Segal said.
One of the men who allegedly assaulted Segal – CTU organizer Martin Ritter – was guilty of more than thuggish behavior. He embarrassed himself by making several lewd comments into Segal’s microphone regarding his genitalia.
Both juvenile comments can be heard on the video above.
“That’s not the first time (Ritter) has done that sort of thing,” Segal said. “At other protests he’s made similar remarks, as well as remarks like ‘why don’t you get a real job,’ or a job where I make more money, things like that.”
Segal never learned the name of the second person arrested.
EAGnews contacted the Chicago Police Department News Affairs department Monday. An officer took the case number and promised to have a supervisor return the call. EAGnews is still waiting for a follow-up call.
Apparently the arrests of the two union thugs were as phony as the pre-arranged arrests of the CTU “civil disobedience” protesters.
Earlier in the week CTU announced that dozens of its members had been training to perform acts of “civil disobedience” during the protest, and had arranged with the Chicago Police Department to be “arrested” for sitting in the middle of the blocked off street.
The police took the names of those volunteering to be “arrested” before the rally. The people detained were not handcuffed, and were only ticketed, not arrested. It was basically a staged drama, with the police department playing a supportive role.
Despite the obvious injustice of the incident, Segal said he probably will not pursue the matter any further.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” he said. “They didn’t hurt me. But I do think they infringed on my rights. They infringed on my First Amendment right to conduct my business. Jesse Jackson and Karen Lewis never told me to stop asking questions. None of their handlers or staff asked me to stop asking questions. If they felt I was in the wrong, they would have gone to the police to get rid of me.
“Instead they put the union muscle on me.”