Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, May 2012
Protesters, Police Face Off In Largest Rally Against Chicago Summit Yet
By RYAN J. FOLEY and NOMAAN MERCHANT
Associated Press, 05/20/12 10:44 PM ET
Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Chicago on Sunday in one of the city's largest demonstrations in years, airing grievances about war, climate change and a wide range of other complaints as world leaders assembled for a NATO summit.
The protest, which for months had stirred worries about violence in the streets, drew together a broad assortment of participants, including peace activists joining with war veterans and people more focused on economic inequality. But the diversity of opinions also sowed doubts about whether there were too many messages to be effective.
And some of the most enduring images of the event were likely to be from the end – when a small group of demonstrators clashed with a line of police who tried to keep them from the lakeside convention center where President Barack Obama was hosting the gathering.
The protesters tried to move east toward McCormick Place, with some hurling sticks and bottles at police. Officers responded by swinging their batons. The two sides were locked in a standoff for nearly two hours, with police blocking the protesters' path and the crowd refusing to leave. Some protesters had blood streaming down their faces.
Authorities were seen making arrests one by one and leading individual demonstrators away in handcuffs.
After the clash near McCormick Place, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a news conference that the protests of the NATO Summit resulted in 45 people being arrested and four officers suffering injuries – one from a stab wound in the leg. Those numbers seemed certain to rise as new clashes erupted later in the night.
Hundreds of protesters gathered late Sunday night near the Art Institute of Chicago as first lady Michelle Obama hosted a dinner for spouses of NATO leaders inside. At least 100 Chicago police officers in riot gear were also at the scene.
Earlier at the protest near McCormick Place, Esther Westlake, a recent graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, marveled at the size of the crowd. She said she had been involved in marches protesting the Iraq War in Chicago but never one this big.
"It's crazy. There's so many people here," she said. "Having NATO in town is kind of exciting."
But she wondered whether the political agendas of the protesters were too unfocused to get diplomats' attention.
"It seems like there's so many messages and people aren't really sure what they want to get accomplished," Westlake said. "People just need to figure out what their argument is going to be."
She worried that some protesters participated simply "to do stupid things" and cause trouble.
Some participants called for the dissolution of NATO, the 63-year-old military alliance that is holding its 25th formal meeting in Chicago. It is the first time the summit has been held in a U.S. city other than Washington.
Diplomats at the meeting planned to discuss the war in Afghanistan, European missile defense and other international security matters.
"Basically NATO is used to keep the poor poor and the rich rich," said John Schraufnagel, who traveled from Minneapolis to Chicago for the march. Since the end of the Cold War, he said, the alliance has become "the enforcement arm of the ruling 1 percent, of the capitalist 1 percent."
The march lacked the size and single message that shaped the last major protest moment in Chicago, when nearly half a million people filled the city's downtown in 2006 to protest making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant.
At one point, dozens of protesters in black clothing surged toward a much smaller group of police, throwing objects at them. The badly outnumbered officers fought back with truncheons, and people on both sides threw punches. As police reinforcements moved in, the pack of violent protesters fled.
Authorities had planned to provide heightened security along the march route to protect people and property.
But unseasonably warm temperatures raised concerns about the safety of the marchers themselves. The city provided water, rest stations and cooling buses along the 2 1/2-mile protest route.
The heat offered an unexpected benefit for police: making it easier to spot potential troublemakers.
Before the summit, officers were told to keep an eye out for people wearing bulky clothing that could hide weapons or big pieces of cardboard that protesters could use to shield themselves against rubber bullets. But anyone wearing overcoats or sweat shirts was conspicuous on a 90-degree day, when many people wore T-shirts and shorts.
Organizers of Sunday's rally had initially predicted tens of thousands of protesters this weekend. But that was when the G-8 summit of leading industrial nations was also scheduled to be in Chicago. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama moved the Group of Eight economic meeting to Camp David, the secluded retreat in rural Maryland.
Chicago kept the NATO summit, which is not addressing the economy specifically. That left activists with the challenge of persuading groups as diverse as teachers, nurses and union laborers to show up for the Chicago protests even though the summit's main focus doesn't align with their most heart-felt issues.
At the end of the march, police appeared to be using precisely the tactics Superintendent Garry McCarthy said they would – extracting individuals from the crowd and quickly getting them away from the rest of the demonstrators.
Several times they could be seen pulling protesters into a line of officers, which parted briefly before quickly closing ranks again.
Police also used "sound cannons" to give orders to demonstrators and tried to relieve officers who had become fatigued to help prevent any escalation in violence.
The demonstrations unfolded just a day after three activists who traveled to Chicago for the summit were accused of manufacturing Molotov cocktails in a plot to attack Obama's campaign headquarters, Emanuel's home and other targets.
Defense lawyers argued that the police had trumped up the charges to frighten away peaceful protesters. They told a judge it was undercover officers who brought the firebombs to an apartment on Chicago's South Side where the men were arrested.
On Sunday, police said two other men were also in custody on charges they discussed making bombs prior to the summit. Authorities said the pair was not connected to the earlier arrests, although defense attorneys said all five were targeted by authorities to scare protesters away from the meeting.
Associated Press writers Michael Tarm, Robert Ray, Carla K. Johnson, Sophia Tareen and Don Babwin contributed to this report.
Occupy Celebrates Victory of Non-Violent Direct Action with March to Boeing, All-Day Rally: People Power Stops the War Machine as Boeing Corporation Directs Employees to Stay Home, Shuts Down!
9am - Gather in Union Park, Lake & Ashland 10am - March to Boeing Company, 100 North Riverside Plaza Occupy Chicago will serve breakfast and rally at Boeing all day
Chicago, IL --
After holding NATO protesters for up to 48 hours, and releasing 6 out of 9 arrestees without any charges, the City of Chicago filed state charges last night against 3 Occupy activists from Florida, including possession of explosives or incendiary devices, material support for terrorism, and conspiracy. On Wednesday night at approximately 11:30pm, police raided a house in the Bridgeport neighborhood, detained several people in multiple apartments, and arrested 9 activists. Police broke down doors with guns drawn and searched residences without a warrant or consent.
"The National Lawyers Guild deplores the charges against Occupy activists in the strongest degree," said Sarah Gelsomino with the NLG and the People's Law Office. "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."
Chicago protesters march on Boeing, Obama HQ
Monday, May 21, 2012. (Rick Kramer/WBBM)
Last Updated 3:25 p.m. ET
(CBS News) CHICAGO -
As NATO officials were wrapping up their summit in Chicago, anti-NATO protesters marched to Boeing's corporate headquarters Monday morning before turning their attention to President Obama's campaign headquarters.
CBS Station WBBM reports the demonstrators were protesting the company's involvement in building aircraft and missiles for the U.S. military. The protesters say Boeing is a "war machine that produces war machines."
The protest began at 9 a.m. at Union Park. Around 10:45 a.m., a couple hundred protesters began marching toward Boeing's headquarters.
Police officers and security personnel had taken their places outside Boeing at 11 a.m. WBBM correspondent Marissa Bailey reports a Coast Guard boat passed by along the Chicago River's South Branch.
Bomb-sniffing dogs were also seen in front of the building in which Boeing occupies the top dozen floors. The company is open for business Monday, but most employees were reportedly working from home.
When protesters arrived around 11:20 a.m., many laid down in the street in a "die-in" against Boeing.
One onlooker said of the protest group, "My family reunions are bigger than this."
So far there have been no arrests at Monday's protests according to Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
One protester, Sam, told WBBM correspondent Roseanne Tellez his issues against Boeing were not just about building machines for the military.
"I wonder why, despite making $9.7 billion in profit over the past couple of years, they've laid off 14,682 workers and raised executive pay 31 percent," Sam said. "When they moved [to Chicago] from Seattle in 2001, they got a 20-year break from property taxes. That cost our city $6 billion. This year we've closed 12 mental health clinics that housed people that are now likely homeless."
Sam said this was his first march during the NATO Summit. "I like this, because it's pointed, and it's directed at Boeing, and I have an issue with Boeing. NATO draws a lot more diffuse energy. I think this is pointed at a specific target, and I like that."
A company spokesman said he thinks it is unfortunate that many protesters think Boeing creates war machines.
"We wish and hope that people understand what we do. We understand that they are upset with us for whatever reason," said spokesman John Dern. "Having said that, to the extent that we have a role in protecting our troops - protecting the people who are protecting all of us - that's something we're proud of and our employees are proud of."
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