Protest Roars to Life at Chicago NATO Summit in Face of Violent Police Crackdowns
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At this point, mounted reinforcements abruptly arrived to a chorus of “Get those animals off those horses!” Protesters also alternatively echoed the newly popular Occupy chant of “A – Anti – Anti-capitalista!” while the march moved toward the Board of Trade. Another showdown with police ensued there, as I was shooed away by police who were un-swayed by my assertion that I was covering the march. After 20 minutes, protesters broke free and continued westward along Jackson in the direction of the Chicago River. Before the march could cross the bridge, police vans suddenly entered the crowd, brushing against protesters in the process. As one of the vehicles wiggled its way through, it ran over activist Jack Amico. The commotion stirred by this act of violence resulted in the end of the roving action, while Amico was loaded into an ambulance and sent to a local hospital before ultimately being transferred to jail for the remainder of the evening.
Shortly thereafter, police stopped and searched two of the most recognized live streamers in town for the event. Tim Pool and Luke Rudkowski were riding together in a vehicle on the near south side when officers pulled them over with weapons drawn. Both individuals were live when the incident occurred so that video footage is available. While neither was ultimately arrested, fellow live streamer Johnathan Ziegler was not as fortunate the following day, as he was among 45 people arrested during the mass march on Sunday. He was released in the early morning hours on Monday, though nothing else was known about the details of his charges by press time.
Meanwhile, the most egregious case of police intimidation came via the trumped-up terrorism charged against three Occupy activists last Wednesday. Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Batterly were arrested after a raid of the home they were staying in, during which police confiscated what they claim was equipment to make Molotov cocktails. The men argue that the kit was actually used for beer-making. Meanwhile, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) claims that police “broke down doors with guns drawn and searched residences without a warrant or consent.” As with the ensuing harassment of live streamers, police appeared to have singled out activists they deemed as being integral organizers. At the same time, they know they can sell the public on the seemingly absurd terrorism charges thanks to months of manufactured hysteria about scary anarchists coming to town with the intent of doing battle with police.
As in 1968, the street war was entirely initiated by police. Superintendant Gerry McCarthy broke a promise made earlier in the week to not deploy riot police. When the major Sunday march kicked off from Grant Park, officers lining the parade route wore their regular attire. However, as protesters exited the high-exposure area downtown, riot gear became increasingly ubiquitous. If anything, this provoked protesters, some of whom chanted, “Take off that riot gear! I don’t see no riot here!”
Indeed, the march was exceedingly peaceful until it reached its final destination on Cermak and Michigan avenue, about two blocks away from the summit site at McCormick place. While police claim the march was only 2,000-3,000 strong, pictures clearly demonstrate that attendance was many times greater. Various estimates from organizers ranged from 10,000-40,000 with my personal opinion being that 20,000 seemed about right. Throughout the length of the three-mile trek, the crowd filled up four-six full city blocks.
Leading the charge were about a dozen members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who threw back their medals at the completion of the march. Among them was a man who fell victim to the domestic front of the “War on Terror” last fall at an Occupy march in Oakland: Scott Olsen. Before throwing his hardware down Cermak Avenue, Olsen told the rally: “These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. They made me feel like I was doing the right thing. Then I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.”