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Jazz Benefit Held for Greg Kroger in Humanist Society Incident

A benefit was held in Chicago on the evening of Friday, Nov. 12 for Gregory Koger, who was, according to his former attorney and witnesses, “pushed to the ground, handcuffed and maced” by Skokie police on Nov. 1, 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society headquarters in Skokie.

The benefit, “Jazz for Justice,” was held in the Grace Gallery at 1741 N. Western Ave. and was attended by about 150 people. Over $2,000 was raised.

Koger’s new attorney, the well-known defense lawyer Jed Stone, spoke briefly to the crowd. He began by saying humorously, “It is a privilege to talk to the Wicker Park Humanist Society,” and then stressed the importance of the case. “This is about the right of peaceful assembly, the right of free speech, the right to videotape, the right to speak out without repression.”

Gregory Koger also spoke, saying he was uncomfortable in front of an audience, but thanking everyone and telling of his discovery of the newspaper “Revolution” when he was in isolation in Pontiac Correctional Center on a previous conviction, and how that changed his life from negative to positive. He also handed out a one-page statement of his views on the larger implications of his case.

Koger was released Oct. 22 on appeal bond after serving two months in Cook County Jail for his conviction on three misdemeanor counts: criminal trespass, resisting arrest, and simple battery. His trial before the Appellate Court will take place “probably some time in the spring of 2011” according to his attorney.

The original fracas on Nov. 1, 2009, occurred when the Ethical Humanist Society of Skokie canceled an invitation to Sunsara Taylor, a social philosopher, feminist, and communist to speak on the subject, “Morality Without Gods.” The EHS, which proclaims it is “for those who seek a rational, compassionate philosophy of life without regard to belief or nonbelief in a supreme being,” apparently hired a plainclothes policeman and called in the Skokie police to prevent Taylor from making an appearance and short speech in defiance of her rejection.

Gregory Koger was there to record this event by videotape when the police grabbed him. (More on this can be found at Some members of the EHS who resigned over the incident were present at the benefit.

Musicians at the benefit were outstanding. The brilliant avant-garde cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm seemed wedded to his instrument as he soared and shivered with his trio, and Ted Sirota, in what he called he called his first appearance in a solo set, wove magical intonations and mini-explosions on his drums and cymbals. It made one realize that the avant-garde could be full of soul.

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