Protest Roars to Life at Chicago NATO Summit in Face of Violent Police Crackdowns
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After IVAW completed their presentation, they informed the crowd that the permitted rally was finished, and that they should dissipate to the west down Cermak. In response to the order, a contingent of Black Bloc protesters began chanting “But NATO’s to the East!” Other event organizers repeated the command to leave the intersection and to respect IVAW’s desire to keep the protest peaceful. Meanwhile, police deployed an L-Rad machine to issue a formal dispersal order.
The vast majority of attendees departed as instructed, leaving 1,000-2,000 people behind. A portion of the remaining crowd then pushed against the police line going eastward, and the batons came crashing down upon the skulls of a number of demonstrators that led the way. The police line pushed protesters out of the middle of the intersection, westward down Cermak. They then placed the L-Rad on perpetual repeat, though the machine never blared piercing music as it has at other protests.
City and state police reinforcements arrived in short order, the latter carrying batons the side of baseball bats. Meanwhile, officers gradually kettled the remaining demonstrators into a small area of sidewalk, and arrested a couple dozen people in the process.
Through most of the post-rally confrontation, protesters were vastly outnumbered. The excessive show of force by the city even led CNN reporter Don Lemmon to comment on video of Chicago police wailing away on the skulls of protesters as such: “I cannot imagine being any of those people who are on the ground or in front of those police officers...Does anyone deserve that?”
Some of the major march organizers from the Coalition Against the G8/Nato War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8) were visibly frustrated by the refusal of so many protesters to disperse when ordered. Andy Thayer, who has been an extremely visible member of the coalition, repeatedly implored people to leave via bullhorn. At one point he yelled, “The permitted protest is now over,” and a young man clad in black responded, to some fanfare, “If you have a permit, it’s not a protest.”
A majority of those who stayed on to engage in civil disobedience were occupiers from various parts of the country. These are people who stole the national limelight by implanting themselves in our public parks without asking permission first. The spirit of this movement is rooted in not playing by the same rules of the mainstream liberal protest groups. They see their freedom of speech as something innate, more so than constitutionally provided, and find it absurd that one need ask permission to speak.
What’s more, confrontation creates a spectacle that draws press attention. CNN et al. would not have stayed on to cover the rightly angry masses had they simply dispersed and gone home. The television viewer would not have been made aware of this widespread public resentment had they treated this demonstration like it was the protest version of a St. Patrick’s Day march.
Instead of dispersing, the movement held strong. They stayed until forcibly moved out by the mass of storm troopers. And then, they did not go home. They merely took it back to the streets of central downtown. They marched back up Michigan Avenue and stopped in front of the Art Institute for a while. A light drizzle began to fall, and protesters responded by dancing in the rain.
They then headed out toward the site of Monday morning’s direct action: a march from Union Park to Boeing headquarters. Occupy Chicago will visit these merchants of death because they are the recipients of tens of billions of dollars in largesse annually, which contributes immensely to the persistent acceleration of wealth upwards to the 1 percent.