Caledonia residents Michael Yocco and Mike Paczesny are not anarchists and they were not flying an anarchy flag when Yocco was arrested on weapons charges by the Chicago Police Department near Wrigley Field on Saturday, they said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the two men were anarchists, and part of the militia when they were detained at the 19th Precinct of the Chicago Police Department during the NATO protests. Yocco and Paczesny said the officers didn’t have probable cause to search Yocco’s car, unlawfully detained them and arrested Yocco because he had ammunition in his car.
But Yocco and Paczesny say they were just shooting video of the protests for an alternative media group called We Are Change Milwaukee.
“We were just filming,” Paczesny said. “We were documenting. We weren’t officially part of the movement or anything like that.”
”It was ridiculous, they repeatedly tried to get me to admit to terrorism. I told them I wasn’t a terrorist, and they said I was lying."
Yocco had just put his Gadsden flag, which is the first flag U.S. Marine Corps from 1776, into the trunk of his car and the two had tried to get in front of the protestors. He had won the flag in a YouTube contest and wanted some video of him with it. The black flag had the words “Don’t tread on me” and “liberty or death." He had political stickers showing support for the second amendment, Ron Paul and a Gadsden flag sticker on his car.
Five plain-clothed officers, who got out of an unmarked black minivan, started to scream at Yocco and Paczesny to put their hands out. One officer flashed a Chicago Police Department badge and asked what the two were doing. Yocco said they were taking pictures.
Then a man wearing riot gear asked Yocco where his car was and if they could search his vehicle.
“I said, ‘Absolutely, I mind. I don’t want you to search my car,’” he said. The officer told Yocco he was going to search his car anyhow. The officer walked up to Yocco, put his hands into Yocco’s pockets and grabbed his keys.
Yocco said he pulled the officer’s hands out of his pocket and said, ‘Man, what are you doing? You don’t have a right to touch me like that."
They allegedly pushed Yocco and Paczesny up against the wall, put zipper ties around their wrists and took Yocco’s keys from his pocket. Searching his car, the police found ammunition and a knife in a bag in the trunk of his car, which Yocco had forgotten to take out of his car after he had been up north at his cabin, he said.
“I didn’t even see them and I didn’t even know they were in the car because they were in the trunk,” Paczesny said.
Yocco said he has a carry conceal weapons permit as a Wisconsin citizen and goes shooting up north at least once a month. He had taken the guns out of his car and hadn’t taken the bag out. He’s also a licensed security officer.
Paczesny and Yocco said they weren’t read their Miranda Rights, and the officers didn’t say why the two were initially being detained prior to them searching the car.
“It was a complete shakedown,” Paczesny said. “They trapped us in the alley, they cornered us because we weren’t part of the protest and once we surrounded by all police, they took advantage of us.”
The two men were loaded into a van and the police station. When the two arrived, law enforcement officials put wristbands with a barcodes on their wrists, wrote numbers on both of their hands with a marker, interrogated them in separate rooms, handcuffed them to benches, took eye scans of their retinas and took their photos.
“It was a mess, just a mess,” Yocco said.
Several media outlets have reported that the two men had guns in their car, but there weren’t any guns.
Paczesny was asked about his affiliation with We Are Change, and he believes he was flagged for it.
“We Are Change is definitely not a militia group and there’s plenty of evidence to back that up,” he said.
“They said, ‘You’re a terrorist, you’re going to jail,” Paczesny said. “I mean, it was ridiculous, they repeatedly tried to get me to admit to terrorism. I told them I wasn’t a terrorist, and they said I was lying.”
The officers told Paczesny that they saw him with a cell phone and thought he was going to detonate the car.
But Paczesny wasn’t a terrorist. He was never arrested, and had been released at 2 a.m. However, Yocco was released after his arrest on a signature bond at 6 a.m. Sunday.
By 8 a.m., Yocco and Paczesny had met up with other people from We Are Change in Minnesota and they were showing them where they were arrested. The others in the van had started filming, and they were again stopped by law enforcement.
“They were filming and an officer in an unmarked squad said, ‘Keep your camera down!’” Yocco said.
Again, six or seven police officers in four different unmarked squad cars blocked in the truck and guns were drawn.
“Hands, hands, hands! Show us your hands,” Yocco said.
The officers realized Yocco had the bar code wristbands and asked if he had been processed. Yocco told the officer that he had just got out of jail and he was going home.
“And I’m like thinking, 'Oh God, oh God, oh God,'” he said. “And I just shut my mouth.”
They frisked the men, and a mass of people showed up and started recording what was happening. After they searched, Yocco was released and he we went home.
Officials with the Chicago Police Department confirmed Yocco’s arrest, but referred media to call the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office.