Joe Scarry is a grassroots activist and organizer from Chicago, Illinois. He describes himself as “IT consultant by day, culture consumer by night, anti-war activist all the time.” Scarry is very involved with national efforts to combat domestic surveillance drones and the more local Chicago movement to free the NATO 5.
The NATO 5 are five individuals with three different cases, but all of which were targeted by undercover police at Occupy Chicago events for politically motivated arrests prior to the May 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. Scarry has been instrumental in the grassroots campaign protesting the incarceration of the NATO 5, attending trial hearings and organizing a New Year’s Eve march outside Cook County Jail chanting “Free them all!”
Scarry has drawn parallels between wrongful imprisonment in Chicago and the Obama administration’s use of drones, arguing that far from being irrelevant to one another, they are intimately linked manifestations of national and systemic violence. He uses this connection to draw more support between the grassroots groups in Chicago, also engaging his church community to use the power of faith to strengthen local and national struggles.
Beyond drones and the NATO 5, Scarry has a long history of grassroots activism addressing civil liberties, including serving as a Producer of The Response, a short film dramatizing the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo Bay based on real events. The film was produced in cooperation with The University of Maryland School of Law and Venable LLP.
Finally, Joe played an invaluable role bringing together grassroots allies from across Chicago—including Amnesty International (Midwest), the Arab American Action Network, CAIR (Chicago), Center for Constitutional Rights, Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, Immigrant Youth Justice League, National Lawyers Guild, No Drones Illinois, and more—during a pair of coalition meetings in late 2012 building a Local Civil Rights Restoration campaign.
BORDC is proud to present Joe Scarry with the April 2013 Patriot Award in recognition of his unerring commitment to grassroots organization. His work illustrates the power available when multiple organizations with potentially disparate goals join together. Scarry has fostered the strength of these movements by drawing connections and support between them, and anyone concerned about civil liberties would do well to follow his lead.