By Abayomi AzikiweEditor, Pan-African News WireChicagoPublished May 23, 2012
This city was the scene of an historic outpouring of activism and indignation on May 20, when at least 15,000 people rallied and marched in opposition to the imperialist war policies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The demonstration took place in defiance of state and ruling-class intimidation, which was engineered by the city administration and the corporate media under the aegis of the White House and the Pentagon.
For weeks the local and national pro-business and military-friendly media had been inundated with reports of possible street violence and mass arrests. It was an attempt to discourage people from coming to Chicago for a series of activities that began on the weekend of May 12-13 with a People's Summit.
But it failed. The week witnessed numerous demonstrations in support of immigrant and workers' rights and in defense of the supposedly constitutionally protected ability to speak freely and congregate.
During the middle of the week, the home of a local activist in the Bridgeport neighborhood was raided by law enforcement. Three youth were beaten, arrested and charged with outrageously trumped-up charges of "terrorism." The activists were essentially disappeared until attorneys located them in a lock-up, shackled as if they were dangerous criminals.
Of course, the corporate media played its part by constantly repeating without question the bogus charges of operating a petrol bomb-making factory and planning attacks against the campaign headquarters of President Barack Obama, local police stations and other targets.
Chicago resembled an armed camp on May 19, just one day prior to the large rally and march. On nearly every street corner in the Loop, gangs of local Chicago police, Federal Protective Services officers, Cook County cops and FBI agents looked as if they were prepared to do battle against anyone who appeared to challenge their authority. At an otherwise peaceful demonstration against repression that day, police rammed bicycles and a vehicle into a crowd of several hundred activists in downtown Chicago.
Rally & march, a significant victory
On May 20, in 90-degree heat, people began to gather at Grant Park as early as 10 a.m. for a scheduled noon rally. Numerous organizations set up literature tables, and people mingled freely, talking politics and engaging in spontaneous cultural presentations.
The rally featured more than 40 speakers representing various political and organizational affiliations: immigrant rights, labor, Civil Rights, Black Liberation, Palestinian, peace, international solidarity, housing, women's, environmental, Filipino and other struggles. Speakers included Larry Holmes of Workers World Party and the Occupy4Jobs Network; Joe Iosbaker of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression; Standish Willis of the National Conference of Black Lawyers; Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence; the longtime Chicano international solidarity organizer Carlos Montes, who is currently fighting a frame-up in California; Joe Lombardo of the United National Anti-War Coalition; the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/Push Coalition; and representatives of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
After the rally, people began to move into the streets outside the park in preparation for the march. Their signs and banners showed the protest had brought together a broad coalition of forces who work on issues related to police brutality, the environment, anti-foreclosure defense, Palestine solidarity, healthcare and other important causes.
Chicago Action Medical, which volunteered its services May 14-21, looked after people along the three-mile march. National Nurses United joined the march after speaking at the rally. Two days earlier, several thousand nurses had held their own rally in Chicago, linking the military budget and the profit making of Wall Street with the lack of healthcare coverage in the U.S.
Perhaps one of the most energetic sections of the march. was the anti-imperialist contingent — composed of BAYAN-USA, the International League of Peoples' Struggle, Workers World Party, the International Action Center, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Solidarity Iran and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs, — which was positioned next to the Palestine solidarity delegation carrying the flag of that occupied territory.
All along the route of march Chicago police, Cook County sheriff deputies, Illinois State Police, FBI agents, Secret Service and other law-enforcement groups lined the sidewalks. At certain points the police were dressed in riot gear with batons.
Many cops were openly videotaping the demonstrators. But people on the sidewalks joined in with the march or cheered it on.
Police attack as crowd begins to disperse
When the march reached Michigan Avenue and 21st Street, many people began to head back to their cars and buses. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War began their own rally, at which they symbolically gave back medals awarded them by the military for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This act of rejection and defiance was reminiscent of similar actions carried out by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Washington, D.C., in April 1971. Many soldiers felt betrayed by the U.S. government and the generals for using them for the benefit of the ruling class.
It was at this point that police moved in and began to attack the remaining people. Buses were brought in filled with cops who provided reinforcements to those on the streets.
The attacks on the demonstrators were unprovoked and obviously preplanned. People were surrounded, beaten down and dragged around in the streets. Dozens were detained and some taken into custody.
Activists camped outside police stations all night waiting for word on the fate of their friends and comrades. Several people were beaten bloody by the cops, who were itching to carry out violence on the mostly youthful protesters.
On the following day, May 21, a demonstration outside Boeing Corporate Offices assailed its role in building the war machine and not paying taxes on its profits. The U.S. military budget now exceeds that of all other countries combined — some $800 billion. This great wealth could be utilized to provide housing, healthcare, education and other essential services for workers, youth and the oppressed, who create everything but receive little in return.Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
By Caleb T. MaupinChicagoPublished May 23, 2012
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is one of the most violent groupings of oppressors in the world. NATO was formed after World War II to try to stop the people of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Red Army from driving out the imperialists and beginning socialist construction in countries that had been liberated from fascist rule. One of NATO's first acts was to defend the autocratic Greek monarchy against a popular democratic and anti-imperialist people's movement.
More recently, NATO has bombed and destroyed Libya and continues to occupy Afghanistan.
Justifiably, millions throughout the world loathe NATO and its murderous reign of drone strikes, military occupations, bombings of civilians and unrestrained violence in service of the bankers and corporations in Western capitalist countries. Many felt it necessary to protest against NATO's May 20 summit in Chicago.
The strategy of NATO and its backers in the halls of power was to isolate the protesters with deceptive rhetoric about "violence." These efforts failed.
In the lead-up to the NATO summit in Chicago, the media were filled with stories demonizing the planned mass demonstrations. Buildings in downtown Chicago had routine terrorism drills. Employees in the downtown area were warned to "dress like a protester" to avoid being assaulted by protesters. But even security director Mark Anderson confirmed, "There's no data out there to substantiate somebody being targeted or hassled because of their affiliation with their firm or their occupation." (chicagobusiness.com, May 8)
Repression failed to suppress protestsMajor roads were closed. High school and college graduations were cancelled. Public transportation was reduced. Meanwhile, the notoriously brutal Chicago police collaborated with the Secret Service, the FBI and the Illinois State National Guard to suppress the planned demonstrations.
Academi, the private military contractor once known as Blackwater, which has been exposed for its extremely ruthless practices in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans, was on the scene as well.
Several days before the mass march, an apartment in Chicago was raided and nine youth were arrested. The police claimed they were manufacturing explosives. Their lawyer has pointed out that the only thing police found was beer-making equipment. The youth were prevented from seeing a lawyer for 17 hours. Their bail was set at $1 million.
The youth suspect that the entire raid was merely retaliation for a video they had posted on the internet earlier in the week, exposing police harassment they had already endured.
The same word that NATO forces use to justify their brutal drone attacks on civilians in Asia and Africa is now being used against activist youth. They are being charged under an obscure Illinois "anti-terrorism" law.
Despite the repressive atmosphere, busloads of Occupy protesters from throughout the U.S. poured into Chicago several days in advance, setting up tents in parks and sleeping in nearby churches.
When the protest called by the United National Anti-War Committee and the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda finally took place on May 20, more than 15,000 people participated, despite all the hype and repression.
As the march ended, the police herded the large crowd of protesters into a small area, not allowing people to leave. As they were pushed against each other, some militant youth pushed back, trying to prevent the crowd from being packed even tighter than before.
The police then attacked the crowd with wooden batons and night sticks. Countless people were severely bloodied and injured as police weapons connected with their skulls. Pepper spray was used, and other acts of violence were unleashed against the peaceful crowd before the police finally allowed people to leave the demonstration. Those who sought medical attention for their injuries were arrested at nearby hospitals.
Despite the heavy repression and media hype, the streets of Chicago were filled with support for the protests. Any hostility toward the demonstrators was rare, and nearly all on the streets were united in their disgust at the extreme police crackdown. Bus drivers, store clerks and workers in the downtown area supported the protests almost unanimously.
The effort to isolate some sections of the anti-NATO protests by labeling them "violent" failed. When the police brutality was unleashed, all major leaders of the demonstration came to the defense of the victims. The people's movement against NATO and its crimes overcame incredible odds and successfully exposed NATO for what it truly is — the real source of violence in the world.
The struggle to drop the false terrorism charges and win justice for those who suffered brutality on May 20 continues.Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
By John CatalinottoPublished May 23, 2012
While 15,000 people were braving police clubs and 50 U.S. military veterans were trashing their medals as they denounced NATO as a criminal military alliance, top officials from the 28 NATO members and some associates were proving that the demonstrators were right on target. NATO intervenes against the people of the world, even as Chicago cops do against protesters.
The NATO Summit's big public topic was the alliance's current hot war against the people of Afghanistan. President Barack Obama, who hosted the summit, announced that the war would finally wind down over the next two years. France's Francois Hollande said he'd pull out French troops before the end of 2012.
Washington had opened this war more than 10 years ago with some nominal NATO help as apparent revenge for the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Pentagon named the operation "Enduring Freedom." The war has certainly endured, as has the slaughter of Afghans, and is now set to continue for two more years.
There is no evidence the war or the NATO operation has brought freedom or any other benefit to the Afghan people — just nighttime roundups, drone attacks and sometimes the casual slaughter of civilians by U.S. troops sent to occupy and repress a traumatized, hostile population.
Despite paper support from many NATO members, the U.S. still supplies 90,000 of the 130,000 foreign troops occupying Afghanistan. Annual costs for the puppet Afghan army are expected to be $4.1 billion. France is supposed to pay about $200 million of this as the blood price for pulling out its troops, while still remaining a charter member of the predatory alliance.
The lack of formal talks between Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari gave evidence that the "end game" in the region might go just as badly as the rest of the war. Pakistan has been blocking an essential supply route of NATO's occupation troops ever since a U.S. airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistanis may reopen the route, but are asking for a toll of $5,000 per truck instead of $250 as in the past. (Chicago Sun Times, May 21)
U.S. bases threaten Russia, Europe
The other big issue at the summit was the U.S. plan to deploy the so-called missile shield to certain European countries, mainly Poland and the Czech Republic. Washington claims the shield is aimed at stopping missiles from Iran. Since Iran has neither nuclear weapons nor long-range rockets, the Russian government considers the shield an aggressive weapon aimed at Russia, one that gives the U.S and NATO the option of a credible first nuclear strike.
Hollande's reaction to the missile shield gave an indication of what his recent election would mean for French foreign policy.The Chicago Sun Times reported, "Hollande gave NATO something: He did not pursue objections to a new NATO ballistic missile system based in Europe; French reporters were told he got assurances from NATO that French companies would get some of that business." (May 21)
NATO was established in 1949 to prevent workers' revolutions in Western Europe and to confront the Soviet Union. The U.S. was, and remains, NATO's dominant member. While 28 NATO members and a couple dozen other countries were represented in Chicago, the core NATO members are the old colonial centers: France and Britain, plus Germany, Italy and other European colonial exploiters of Africa and Asia.
This inner core is the same as the G8, without Japan and Russia. These dominant Western imperialist powers control technology, banking, trade and currency worldwide. Almost every country in Europe is drafted into NATO and then forced to buy weapons from the main powers and supply cannon fodder for Washington's wars.
Since the downfall of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in 1991, Washington has consciously turned NATO into a tool for maintaining its control in Europe and carrying out reconquest of the former colonial world.
NATO attacks throughout the 1990s dismembered Yugoslavia and subordinated its pieces — the remaining ministates — to Western European and U.S. imperialism. NATO has provided cover and backup for the occupation of Afghanistan. In 2011 NATO bombed Libya for seven months, destroying that country and making it possible for the Western oil monopolies to pick up the pieces. Now NATO is involved in trying to overthrow the government of Syria.
All the propaganda about "humanitarian interventions" used as a pretext for these operations of conquest are just that: lies. There is no possible progressive role for this brutal military machine. The veterans who destroyed their medals have recognized this — and everyone should.
The spin doctors for imperialism knew what they were doing when they moved the G8 from Chicago to Camp David. It would have been too obvious that while the G8 Summit coordinated the economic interests of the 1 percent of the 1%, the NATO Summit coordinated their enforcers.Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
By Frank NeisserChicagoPublished May 23, 2012For 10 days Workers World Party members and friends actively worked with the peoples' mobilization against the NATO Summit of the war-makers in Chicago to build momentum toward the magnificent May 20 march.
The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8) sponsored the main march. WWP's delegation, with people from Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston and cities in Wisconsin and Utah, participated in meetings, marches, press conferences, pickets and rallies.
WWP activists got out thousands of copies of Workers World newspaper and thousands of a special supplement — headlined "Unite to fight racism and imperialism – Abolish NATO – Defend the right to protest – Peoples' Power – Next step DNC and RNC" — at all the week's events.Those distributing WW had great discussions with veterans eager to expose NATO's true role, students considering what Peoples' Power might look like, and activists learning first-hand about the role of the cops as the domestic arm of NATO's war machine.
Protest & solidarity
On May 12-13, CANG8 and Occupy Chicago held a People's Summit to discuss the issues.
Occupy Chicago called a week of daily anti-NATO actions for May 14-21. These included a Monday, May 14, education rally at a high school the Chicago Board of Education had listed for closure. A May 15 march for immigrant rights went through immigrant neighborhoods and concluded with a direct civil disobedience action: occupying the Chicago Immigration and Customs Enforcement office by sitting-in and blockading the doors. On May 16, a militant march in support of a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions targeted the Bank of America.
On May 17, Workers World Party held a public forum on "NATO, Tool of the 1%." WWP First Secretary Larry Holmes, who is also coordinator of the Bail Out the People Movement and Occupy 4 Jobs, discussed the significance of the Occupy movement in the context of the world uprising against the NATO/G8 program of war, cutbacks and austerity.
Representatives of the local housing struggle and Final Call, the newspaper of the Nation of Islam, participated. A representative of the Committee against FBI Repression, who was herself one of the 24 anti-war and international solidarity activists whose homes were raided by the FBI in September 2010, spoke of the case of Carlos Montes, who goes on trial in Los Angeles in June.
Earlier that day, WW members and supporters participated in a rally in solidarity with Carlos Montes at the Dirksen Federal Building, where the investigation against the 24 and Montes is headquartered.
WWP members also attended a press conference and a march condemning the police invasion of the home of Occupy Chicago activists and protesting that three of them were held on bogus terrorism charges. Cops seized a home beer-making kit and spun a story that it was to be used for making molotov cocktails.
On May 19, WWP and International Action Center members participated in the founding conference of the U.S. Chapter of the International League of Peoples' Struggle.
Later that day, WWP members were central organizers of a "NATO – EU – Hands Off Greece!" demonstration at the Greek Consulate. They expressed solidarity with the Greek workers, who have rejected all political parties that have agreed to the European Union's and the banks' super-austerity program.
At the huge May 20 antiwar demonstration, WWP staffed two literature tables and got out hundreds of Workers World newspapers. The WWP organizers, including a large delegation from Detroit, joined the ILPS contingent. WWP's lead banner read, "Abolish NATO, Tool of Wall Street Rule, We Need Jobs Not War."
Published May 23, 2012
Workers World asked Sara Flounders, a national coordinator of the International Action Center and member of the Steering Committee of the United National Anti-war Coalition, for her assessment of the May 20 demonstration in Chicago.
First, I want to congratulate the organizers, CANG8, for a well-organized, powerful, united mass rally with a focused message against NATO, NATO's wars, growing repression and the disastrous cuts in every U.S. social program. May 20 was, despite all the threats and violence baiting, the largest antiwar demonstration in years.
The march looked tremendous! The important participation of the veterans and the image of returning their medals, combined with the contingent against political repression that united with Palestinian and Philippine activists, the many signs of "No war on Iran," "Troops out of Afghanistan," "Stop drone attacks," the signs for Bradley Manning and against cutbacks and racism, along with union participation — it all showed a powerful level of developing unity with the struggle here and around the world.
These are images that NATO generals and the whole corporate and military establishment want to totally bury.
This whole week of activity has taken the movement to a new level and nationally helped the young Occupy movement understand NATO as an enemy of humanity.
We shouldn't be surprised at the corporate media's focus on the fabricated "violence of the demonstrators." They have to hide any understanding of NATO as a criminal conspiracy, committed to violence, corporate domination and human degradation.
But the overwhelming numbers of police, the threatening equipment and tactics of the state's repressive apparatus, combined with the level of police violence in Chicago, were so outrageous that they fully exposed the violence of NATO, more clearly than words and signs could ever do.It's clear once again that NATO rules through fear. In this period of unsolvable capitalist crisis, this is their only weapon. The police, the city officials, the compliant media did everything to terrorize the population of Chicago and the region from even coming downtown on Sunday. All of this was meant to undermine support for the demonstration — and to demonize and criminalize our youth as the supposed source of violence. That makes the turnout an even greater accomplishment.
We should take note of the police interference in internet, global positioning system and text messaging throughout the day. U.S. officials denounce and lecture other countries around the world when they do this, but in the face of one demonstration, they have done the same.
When returning home, we can't forget the youth rounded up in Chicago who now face outrageous charges of terrorism, conspiracy, enormous bails and possibly long trials. The anti-war movement must make the police-state tactics a national issue.