Friday, April 2, 2004

Concert aims to support accused Tempe activist

By Bryon Wells, Tribune

Since his arrest last year on suspicion of federal weapons offenses, Tempe activist Laro Nicol has amassed a large following of supporters.

Nicol, a former air traffic controller, was already well-known in Valley peace activist circles.

Now, typing in Nicol's name on the Google search engine reveals 10 pages of links that exclaim "Free Laro!" and call him a "prisoner for peace."

Widespread support is found on Web sites for Cop-Watch, a group that opposes police brutality, and other leftist political organizations.

On Saturday, the Monsoon Anarchist Collective is hosting a benefit concert with local punk, reggae and hip-hop acts for Nicol and Sherman Austin, "a political prisoner imprisoned in Tucson."

"It's incredible, there's definitely a large level of support for my cause," Nicol said, adding that he lost his job after his arrest, and his family is just scraping by.

Nicol was arrested March 4, 2003, by agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on suspicion of unlawfully possessing explosives and unlawfully possessing firearms on the grounds that he is an illegal drug user, court records state.

Nicol said that much of the government's case against him stems from the statements of an informant who was under threat of arrest.

A recent motion to postpone Nicol's trial suggests that a plea deal may be in the works.

"The parties are now actively attempting to achieve a pre-trial resolution," court records state.

Nicol said he believes his political leanings and past involvement in CopWatch had something to do with his arrest, facilitated under the USA Patriot Act.

"I have a family. I was not out there raising hell," Nicol said. "The government intrusion is so pervasive that no one is safe from it anymore. With as little as an informant's statement, boom, I was raided."

If Nicol ends up behind bars, his family will need help, and that's where the benefit show comes in. Proceeds will help Nicol's family and Austin, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison in Tucson on charges related to publishing information about explosives on his Web site.

Activist fund-raiser
What:Benefit concert featuring Bodhisattva, Financial Panther, Joey G, Kitch Kitchen, Queen, Mohammed, FNX Underground & Ill Phonix, Yavin 4, Kindread
When: 6:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday
Where: Kid's Place, 1245 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix
Cost: $5 suggested donation at the door