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Reports and Voices from the 'No to NATO' Demonstrations in Chicago


May 21, 2012
Occupy Wall Street & Chicago Indymedia

Commentary: "You wouldn't know it from watching CNN, but thousands of people have gathered this week in Chicago and elsewhere to peacefully express their indignation at a political system dominated by war and austerity.... We are building a world without technocrats and political and financial elites, a world based on mutual aid, solidarity, direct democracy, and co-operation."

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NoNATO So Far"
Thousands Protest War and Austerity

Occupy Wall Street



(May 20, 2012) -- You wouldn't know it from watching CNN, but thousands of people have gathered this week in Chicago and elsewhere to peacefully express their indignation at a political system dominated by war and austerity.

While world leaders gather for the G8 and NATO summits -- where they are discussing war plans and addressing their failed financial system with rhetoric alone -- Occupiers and our allies are not only holding our own workshops and discussions on the financial crisis, we are taking direct action to create a world that does not need their warfare or austerity.

We are building a world without technocrats and political and financial elites, a world based on mutual aid, solidarity, direct democracy, and co-operation.

Sometimes festive, sometimes militant, we are in the streets non-violently demanding health care, immigrant justice, ecological sustainability, education funding, and more. But the only thing corporate media wants to talk about is three people accused of making Molotov cocktails at the encouragement of police informants desperate to demonize nonviolent protesters in the public eye. In reality, the only violence this week has been perpetrated by the police themselves.

Here's what's really happened. (With pictures!)

Monday, 5/14
The Catholic Workers rallied outside the Prudential Building, President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters. Eight anti-war protesters were arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing after sneaking past security guards and refusing to leave in an act of civil disobedience.

At Dyett High School in Washington Park, Chicago, Occupy Chicago, members of the Chicago Teachers Union, and high school students protested austerity and cuts to education as they rallied to save an art program at the school which is slated to be closed due to budget cuts. Protesters chanted, "Education is a right, not just for the rich and white!" One representative of the teachers union told media, "This city is spending $128 million on NATO, while they refuse to incorporate a bona fide art program into one of our area high schools. Where are our priorities?"

Tuesday, 5/15
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission, Occupy El Barrio, and Occupy Chicago led a march for immigrant rights, rallying first outside the Mission in Little Village before marching to the Lincoln Methodist Church in Pilsen and ending at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Chicago Immigration Court at Van Buren and Clinton. Protesters held a press conference and rallied against ICE policies. Some activists blockaded the door for over an hour.

Father José Landaverde of the Anglican Mission and another activist were arrested; afterward, the crowd formed another picket and march. Two more were arrested after police formed a line to prevent the march from crossing a street. Witnesses say those arrested were on the sidewalk. One was charged with aggravated battery of a police officer, despite witnesses saying otherwise. The others were charged with criminal trespass.

Later in the day, an impromptu anti-police brutality march was called. A few hundred Occupiers marched and chanted through the streets for over three miles across the city. One area resident told local mainstream press, "I'm glad they got a march because the police are crazy out here. They come out here roughing us up … sending innocent people to jail." There were no arrests.

Wednesday, 5/16
Hundreds of people from Occupy Chicago and Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction marched to banks and government offices around Daley Plaza, including the Chicago Board of Trade and a Citibank. Protesters demanded that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart implement a one-year moratorium on evicting homeowners facing foreclosure. Deputy Chief of Staff Dana Wright from the Sheriffs office showed up and pledged that Dart would meet with two Occupy delegates to suggest a later public meeting on foreclosures.

Protesters re-enacted the eviction of a Cook County family, portraying Sheriff Dart as a tool of greedy banks. The rally ended just before noon, when a few Occupiers carried furniture including a couch, chair, rug, and a lamp into the lobby of a Citibank branch. Four people were arrested during the protest. One person was charged with a felony count of aggravated battery of a police officer and a misdemeanor count of obstructing traffic, and the others with one count of misdemener trespass. The furniture was also detained by CPD.

Thursday, 5/17
Occupy, CodePink and hundreds of activists marched from President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters to three consulates of NATO countries to protest the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Dozens of CPD officers blocked off Prudential Plaza. The Occupiers staged a die-in, using a model drone to draw attention to civilian deaths caused by drone strikes. They then marched up Michigan Avenues, protesting at the Canadian, British, and German consulates, calling on the countries to withdraw from NATO and denounce the war on Afghanistan. Thursday also saw a large Critical Mass bike ride against environmental injustice.

Friday, 5/18
The morning began with thousands gathering at Daley Plaza to support a rally of the National Nurses Union calling for a Robin Hood Tax of 0.5 percent on financial institutions' transactions to pay for health care, education, and other social safety net services. Many musicians, including Tom Morello, performed to an exuberant crowd.

After the rally, an unpermitted environmental march left from Daley Plaza. Thousands joined, and police were extremely aggressive. One person tore down a NATO banner before being spirited away by protesters. Hundreds then conducted a sit-in in front of the Board Of Traders and the Federal Reserve Building. Read more about Fridays events.

Saturday, 5/19
Occupiers joined with the Mental Health Movement at the Irving Park transit station, donning hospital gowns and canvassing the local neighborhood, before thousands took the streets and marched to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's home.

The MHM have been occupying mental health clinics slated for closure due to the city's austerity programs (even as the city spends millions in public funding on hosting the NATO conference). The large crowd staged a peaceful sit-in in the road in front of Rahm´s house demanding ¨Health Care Not Warfare!¨ and an end to cuts in services for the poor. There were no arrests. See more.

Afterward, Occupiers marched back to LaSalle and Jackson, the heart of the city's financial district where Occupy Chicago held an encampment last year, in an impromptu show of support for the #NATO3. At 6:30pm, an anti-capitalist march gathered at the Haymarket memorial. The two groups met up and, despite being nonviolent, were brutally attacked by police. Medics reported nurmerous injuries including bruised ribs from baton strikes. Several protesters were bloodied; at least one was taken away in an ambulance after being intentionally struck by a police van.

Meanwhile, in Frederick County, Maryland, protesters gathered to protest the G8 -- which was originally scheduled for Chicago but moved to Camp David, a secure military base near the small town of Thurmont, Maryland. Those who protested included anti-war groups, activists fighting anti-genetically modified crops, and around 200 Ethiopian expatriates protesting the presence of the Ethiopian prime minister at the G8. 25 members of Occupy Baltimore traveled to the area to canvass locals about why they oppose the G8. Nearby Occupy Frederick also held the Occupy G8 People's Summit on Friday and a Counter G8 Community Bloc Party.

Despite the lack of a threat of violence, police donned riot gear and were armed with bean-bag shotgun shells and chemical munitions on the streets of the quiet, small town. A police spokesperson told corporate media, "There have been no criminal acts committed, no assaults, destruction of property, no vandalism." Nevertheless, Thurmont taxpayers are left with a $20,000 price tag for policing the totally peaceful event.

Also on Saturday, 25-30,000 people gathered in Frankfurt to protest against austerity at the European Central Bank as the German Chancellor (a proponent of austerity in the European Union) traveled to the US to meet with President Obama and other world leaders at the G8. The event was the culmination of a week of nonviolent civil disobedience planned by the Blockupy Alliance, consisting of Occupiers, indignad@s, and social justice movements from across Germany and Europe. Hundreds of people were arrested after protesters peacefully defied a government ban on most of the protests. Read more.

Today, 5/20
A "Say No to the War and Poverty Agenda" event is scheduled to take place at Petrillo Bandshell followed by a march to McCormick Place. Jesse Jackson, SEIU Health Care Illinois/Indiana, the United National Antiwar Coalition, Chicago Teachers Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers Western Region, Malik Mujahid of the Muslim Peace Coalition, Veterans for Peace, and more will participate.

The largest march against #NATO will be from Grant Park to the convention center where the summit is scheduled to begin at 1"30PM CDT.

Among other events and marches, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will converge in Grant Park to march to the NATO summit. There, they will ceremoniously return their medals to NATO's generals. From Iraq Veterans Against the War"

"We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed policies." Calling this a march for justice and reconciliation, veterans say they will mobilize to "demand that NATO immediately end the occupation of Afghanistan and related economic and social injustices, bring US war dollars home to fund our communities, and acknowledge the rights and humanity of all who are affected by these wars.



Thousands March to Oppose Police Repression in Run-up to NATO Summit
Chicago Indymedia

CHICAGO (May 19, 2012) -- Chicago saw thousands of people in the streets Saturday in the run-up to the beginning of the NATO summit. with the afternoon's boisterous but peaceful protest marches marred by sweeping police violence.

Protests began in the morning, when people gathered at the Irving Park Brown Line public transit stop to don hospital gowns and canvas the local neighborhood, then assembled at noon for the "Healthcare not Warfare!" action. That protest marched on the house of mayor Rahm Emanuel to protest his closure of half of the city's public mental health clinics in a ‘cost-saving' measure protesters say is both unnecessary and part of the city's push to privatize public services.

At the same time, supporters of three men arrested in a Wednesday night raid at the Bridgeport apartment of Occupy Chicago activists were gathering at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California for the arrestees' noon bail hearing. Each was slapped with a bond of $1.5 million; Cook County States' Attorney Anita Alvarez had originally asked for $5 million bonds for each, and trotted out a litany of charges deployed in the first-ever use of the state's anti-terrorism statutes, claiming the Florida residents, Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly, were making Molotov cocktails and planned to hit targets that included Obama campaign headquarters and Emanuel's house. All three men had earlier in the week released a video that documented their targeted harassment by Chicago police, a tape which is said to have enraged local cops.

Protesters and attorneys have called the charges ludicrous, pointing out that the ‘bomb-making devices' police and Alvarez referred to in their post-hearing press conference were actually a home beer brewing operation.

"It's outrageous for the city to apply terrorism charges when it's the police who have been terrorizing activists and threatening their right to protest," said NLG attorney Sarah Gelsomino of the People's Law Office.

Protesters called on the spot for an emergency protest to begin at 3:30 PM at LaSalle and Jackson, in the heart of the city's financial district. LaSalle and Jackson has also been the home corner for a months-long Occupy Chicago presence and the staging of several large marches seeking to create an encampment at Congress and Michigan that has been repeatedly thwarted by police and produced hundreds of arrests last year.

The 3:30PM emergency protest eventually linked up with a planned evening anti-capitalist march that staged out of the Haymarket memorial and subsequently swelled to thousands, turning into a rolling wave of opposition to the Chicago police department's sustained effort to thwart anti-NATO protests.

The protesters' goal this week? To ratchet up attention on NATO, the military arm of the 1% -- a cold war relic with a clearly overtly aggressive military mission. NATO missions have killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, bombed Libya back into the stone age and allowed its rich oil resources to be steered toward more direct control of western oil companies, and turned a blind eye to the repressive regimes of allies in Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries. Member states of NATO, let by the U.S., supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq, leaving that nation in ruins -- and its petroleum resources in the hands of western elites and their allies.

City and federal officials and police have worked mightily since the NATO summit was announced last year in tandem with the G8 gathering -- subsequently moved to Camp David by the Obama administration -- to spin their commitment to the right to peacefully protest, to imply that at least some protesters were dangerous radicals and even terrorists, and to position NATO as a benevolent force for good.

The city formally pulled the mask off that charade today, when the police unleashed a wave of violence against sometimes rowdy but peaceful protesters as they staged the convergence of the 3:30 and 6:30 marches. Neither action was permitted, in keeping with Occupy Chicago's standing opposition to the city's ‘Sit Down & Shut Up" protest ordinances, which were tightened earlier this year to make it virtually impossible to stage permitted actions without at least a million dollars in insurance, massive ‘marshall' presence, and a commitment to register all signs and banners with the authorities -- draconian restrictions on free speech and civil liberties that the Occupy movement and its allies have refused to embrace.

The police used batons, bikes and their fists to beat people and push protesters back repeatedly today, with medics reporting numerous injuries. Several arrests were also reported. One police officer narrowly missed a protester with his baton, inadvertently shattering the billy club against a police bike.

By about 9:20 PM, the march had circled back to LaSalle and Jackson, and after the crowd moved off again, a Chicago police van apparently ran over one protester with both sets of the vehicle's wheels. Streamer Lorenzo Serna passed along information that at least one witness to that injury reports that the driver of the police van gunned the engine before striking and injuring the protester.

"I was at that march later," wrote one protester on the comments thread of a video of the police violence. "Noisy and somewhat disruptive to the sparse traffic yes, but peaceful. Democracy is always noisy and disruptive. People that whine about these kinds of protests simply hate democracy."

"I'll respect the law, when it respects the people," another protester wrote of the police.

Thousands of people watched the day's actions via livestream via Chicago Indymedia's livestream channel, and streams by Global Revolution, uneditedcamera, and others.

One streamer reported seeing two protesters viciously clubbed by police. "People are very angry at the police," he said.

That anger stems in part from months of demonization of protesters and relentless repression by the authorities of the right to peaceably assemble and utilize public spaces. While much of that repression has been targeted against Occupy protesters, mainstream peace groups have struggled for months to win permits from the city to protest the NATO summit within sight and sound of the gathering -- a goal they have still been denied.

Many protesters from out of town said they'd been involved in Occupy efforts in other cities -- the movement nationally has seen a wave of targeted -- and apparently nationally coordinated -- repression by local authorities, despite the movement's abiding commitment to non-violent protest.

Meanwhile, protesters are gearing up for the first full day of the NATO summit, which will include a rally and march being convened by military veterans being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and CANG8 -- the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda. That action will stage out of Grant Park at Columbus and Jackson for a planned march on the NATO summit site at McCormack Place.

Protesters at the CANG8 action will hold a 10AM press availability at their press tent at Columbus and Jackson on Sunday to decry the police violence and the criminalization of dissent.

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