Protesters march to oppose NATO, several arrested

By Kaley Fowler

Several months of planning came to fruition on May 20 as thousands of protesters gathered and marched in opposition of the NATO Summit.

In compliance with a permit issued April 4 by the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda hosted an anti-NATO rally in Grant Park followed by a march to McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lakeshore Drive. Although order was maintained during the city-approved protest, many protesters refused to leave when it ended, provoking police involvement.

The gathering began Sunday morning as hundreds of activists began flooding the park at Jackson Boulevard and Columbus Drive in anticipation of the noon rally that featured live music and more than 20 speakers. The crowd grew substantially as the 12 o’clock hour approached, reaching upwards of 3,000, according to police estimates.

Members of the crowd represented many different ideologies, ranging from environmentalism to anti-capitalism to pro-Palestinian causes. Many of the crowd’s sentiments were mirrored on stage as each speaker took the podium to address listeners.

Among the speakers was civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who preached non-violence to the crowd, leading the chant, “We need a peace machine, not a war machine!”

As the speakers concluded, police lined both sides of Jackson Boulevard in anticipation of the 2 p.m. march to McCormick Place.

Led by two police vans and numerous officers, the mass of protesters headed west on Jackson Boulevard before turning south on State Street and maintaining a generally southbound direction all the way to McCormick Place. The march moved at a steady pace with little conflict between marchers and police.

While they marched, demonstrators yelled chants such as, “No NATO, no war!” and “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose war? Their War!”

The parade soon reached its final destination: a stage at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road. Here, military veterans took the stage and took a stand against the war by throwing their military medals to the ground.

“These medals don’t mean anything to me,” said one Iraq war veteran. “They can have them back.”

As CANG8 finished its demonstration, protesters were urged to dissipate. Most of the crowd left, but many refused to vacate the area.

CANG8 organizer Andy Thayer attempted to keep the peace with a bullhorn, stating, “We went to a lot of trouble to make sure this march was a safe and peaceful march.”

Despite being told to leave and faced by a wall of police, many protesters still refused to leave. Officers on horses and riot police were called to the scene to advance on the rioters, pushing them farther west and away from the summit.

Push back from the police continued as adamant protesters refused to budge. Officers threatened to use anti-riot measures on the crowd while sporting gas masks, but they did not resort to such tactics. Rather, they singled out “trouble-makers” and made several arrests.

At approximately 5:40 p.m., reported that two men “bleeding profusely from the head” were dragged out of the crowd following an altercation with police.

The crowd eventually dispersed, and the area was mostly clear of protesters at about 6:15 p.m.

Approximately 45 protesters were arrested, and at least seven were hospitalized. Four police officers were also injured, including one who was stabbed in the leg.