Today a member of the NATO 3 Defense Committee received a letter from Brent Betterly, which included a rewritten version of his sentencing statement. Brent ad-libbed his statement in court from notes, but says he is confident that what he has written is almost exact to what was said, save for a few grammatical differences and filler words.
I apologize in advance if this seems a bit long-winded and I’d just like to express my great relief and gratitude for the opportunity to utilize my own voice again after a frustrating two years. My goal in making this statement is to refute some of the negative assertions about who I am and what my intentions are.
Very briefly, I’d like to start by addressing these recent allegations of racially derogatory comments directed toward an officer with whom I’ve had virtually no contact with. It’s my position that this is a complete fabrication and is in keeping with this consistent pattern over these past couple years where I’ve been repeatedly accused of engaging in the same sort of senseless ideologies and acts of violence that I so vehemently oppose and are just antithetical to the sort of person I am. To engage in or plan out this supposed conspiracy would be to perpetuate the same cycle of fear and violence I have so desperately strived to expose and disrupt. Those who know who I really am know that I’m just not capable of harboring such ideals and intentions.
Now, I’m not a big fan of categorizations, but one label that has continuously been advanced by the State as if it was in itself a condemnation, somehow synonymous with a violent terrorist, and I will not shy away from is that of the so-called “self-proclaimed anarchist.” Without professing to be an expert in all the complexities of political philosophy, I will say that as one who identifies as an anarchist there are specific principles I strive to live by and those I choose to reject. I believe that within everybody lies the ability and the right, both individually and collectively, to responsibly govern themselves. I believe in empowering people to overcome the disadvantages and inequities imposed on them by others in power. I oppose the exploitation and degradation of human potential in every form, be it racism, sexism, homophobia, or classism, and these violently institutionalized injustices are deeply etched into the conscience of our society. Admittedly, I’m not a hundred percent sure how you completely dismantle and abolish such archaic institutions but I’m at least intelligent enough to realize that the reciprocation of these sort of violent ideologies is a historical failure and counter-productive.
The reason I came to Chicago was to join my voice in solidarity with the millions of people around the world who’ve learned the true meaning of terror at the hands of NATO’s seemingly endless war agenda. These people’s only crimes were being born into regions coveted by transnational corporations, and their political allies, for their politically and economically strategic locations. I came to lend my voice to those who, as a result of the seemingly insatiable appetite of these corporate and political giants, no longer have one.
I also came to Chicago to join in the local communities outcry against being thrust into a virtual military war zone for the purposes of facilitating the real conspiracy to commit terrorist acts that was taking place within the walls of McCormick Place. The NATO summit, quite literally, changed the physical landscape of this city, along with the political atmosphere, by further expanding on this invasive and intricate surveillance apparatus that, along with the millions of dollars in weapons and riot gear, have remained long after the summit left town.
Now, there is no doubt that there were some outrageous and ridiculous statements and boasts made in fits of dark humor and bad taste during the course of their surveillance and we’ve all heard them during trial. Though much of it was out of my presence, taken out of context or taken to mean something entirely different, I think I can speak for all three of us when I say we were not serious about much of what was said. Of course, there were also statements recorded that completely disavowed or even denounced acts of violence, or even vandalism for that matter, but much of that was overlooked. Either way, I can take responsibility for the few stupid things I said.
For these ill-advised transgressions, I have lost nearly two years of my life, not to mention all else that’s been lost within that time and I won’t even begin to try and account for it all right here. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my life, it’s that like all of life’s adversity, there is always something to be gained in traversing these obstacles, some new found knowledge and strength to take away from it. I’ve had plenty of time and opportunity to educate myself and to reflect these last couple years, and I think at this point I’m capable of acknowledging and learning from my past mistakes.
It’s my sincere hope here today that this case and others like it will continue to spark public discourse about the ominous direction we’ve been heading in with this War on Terror. The people have every right to question government practices, especially when they discover that the fears and biases that permeate our society are being manipulated and exploited to quell the voices of dissent, and to defer others from exercising their right to do so. It’s in the people’s name that these injustices are being perpetrated and now is the time to begin to identify and rectify these mistakes. Of course political dissidents are not the only targets in this vast War on Terror, and all too often it can be as blatantly repressive as the color of your skin, what religion you identify with, or what your moral beliefs are.
Going back almost seven years ago, I became a father at a rather young age. I saw the world and where I fit into it through a very different lens after this momentous event and I swore right then and there to my amazing newborn son that I would do everything in my power to provide him with a life and opportunities that I was deprived of. I worked hard for years trying to forge a path for my son and I, but as time went on it seemed that I kept slipping and stumbling and losing my grip on that hopeful vision for a better future for Isaiah. This struggle was not mine alone and was shared by millions of people in this country and around the world. I began to understand the correlation between our hardships and the political and economic policies of those in power. I realized that attempting to address my own hardships was just not enough, that the source of our hardships should be the focal point of our collective struggle as people. This realization has imbued me with a deep sense of moral conviction and duty ever since and it is that sense of purpose and responsibility which eventually led me to this city.
The assertion that I came here motivated by hatred and violent intentions couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve met some truly amazing and supportive people throughout my time here in Chicago and I love and value all the friendships I’ve cultivated here, both before and during my incarceration. That is what really motivates me, what drives me to fight for social justice, and to resist war and exploitation– my love for people, my faith in humanity, and my empathy and compassion for the victims of violence and oppression.
Of course, I’m driven in large part by the love I bear for my son, Isaiah. He is my whole universe and it’s difficult to describe the deep abyss that exists where my heart used to be ever since being locked away from him. My little boy gives me a profound sense of purpose for existing in this world and I know I’m no “father of the year” nor have I ever professed to be [in response to Jack Blakey’s snide remark]. I’m often haunted by my insecurities and inadequacies as a parent due to my absence these last two years. Everyday, I look into my son’s eyes through these pictures and I hold the memories of his voice and his presence in my thoughts and dreams and during these moments I’m overcome with emotions so powerful and so deep simple words such as love and longing are hardly sufficient to do them justice. I can see reflected in Isaiah’s eyes that naïve sense of wonder and open, unbridled amazement at the world unfolding before him.
Then I think of parents like me all around the world, who stare into their child’s eyes, just as I do, and see only pain and suffering reflected back. These parents are beyond consolation and light years past moral anguish due to their complete helplessness and inability to protect their children and prevent their suffering. These people are our fellow human beings and are viewed from afar as abstract numbers and statistics, little more than collateral damage or sacrificial pawns in this human chess game that western powers are engaged in for material gain.
I shudder to imagine the world in which Isaiah will grow up and dread the day when his naïveté and innocence are shattered, but rather than shield him from the reality of this world, I take it as my parental duty to expose the truth for his generation so that he may continue our struggle towards a more compassionate and sustainable future. I love my son so much, with my entire heart, and I want better things for him than what I had. I wouldn’t dream of one day telling him to sacrifice his moral convictions in favor of the path of least resistance, or that it’s perfectly acceptable to blindly obey authority, that to question the motivations and policies of those in power or to even question the legitimacy of that power is somehow criminal. I hope that my beautiful, intelligent little boy knows that his daddy is no monster, that monsters don’t exist, not even on this side of the cage…because the injustices and cruelties in this world are perpetrated by people that exist on both sides.