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May 14, 2012

Police, Protesters Prepare for NATO Summit in Chicago

by Kane Farabaugh

CHICAGO, Ilinois - The city of Chicago is hosting the NATO summit on May 20 and 21.  While NATO leaders are preparing for discussions on future cooperation, protesters are gearing up to demonstrate. 

Chicago native Jacob Cayia is looking forward to the NATO summit, but not because it boosts local businesses or promotes his city.  

With various world leaders in town, and the media that follow, Cayia wants to express his frustration publicly.

 “I think a lot of people are angry at the way the world is run today and these sort of international global networks,” said Cayia.

At protests organized to coincide with the NATO summit, Cayia and Gabe Gaster want to clearly convey those concerns, something Gaster says is often missing at other demonstrations.

 “What you get is people raising their voices and having their voices heard, but it’s not really clear what they are saying," said Gaster.

Cayia and Gaster plan to join thousands more on the summit’s opening day march to protest, among other things, global economic inequality and the NATO military mission in Afghanistan.

Organizer Nancy Rosenstock is hoping for a large turnout.

“We don’t know how big they’ll be, but we’re trying to get the word out as wide as possible," she said. "There’s buses coming from other Midwest cities, people coming from the east coast, and we’re reaching out as far and wide to people educating [them] about the role of NATO and what they do around the world.”

“I think the overall mood is one of excitement mixed with fear," said Professor Erik Gellman. His classroom at Roosevelt University overlooks Grant Park, where the march will start before it heads to an area near McCormick Place, where NATO leaders will gather.

“A lot of my students fear being arrested, fear being fined large amounts of money,” said Gellman.

Gellman says that fear stems from crackdowns on recent Occupy protests in the city. The Chicago Police Department enforced curfews for public areas and prevented people from setting up camps.

But the city is allowing protesters to march on May 20.  Breaking the law or causing violence is not on Jacob Cayia's agenda.

“Me getting arrested would really not be a benefit whatsoever, it would be a hindrance to the activity I would be able to perform," said Cayia. "But I’m out there to raise awareness and to get the message out.”

Which is the message Nancy Rosenstock wants to send to others planning to come to Chicago for the NATO Summit.

“We plan on organizing a peaceful, legal, family friendly demonstration,” said Rosenstock.

Those demonstrations will occur under the watchful eye of a beefed-up Chicago Police Department, joined by other state and federal agencies.