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May 19, 2012

NATO Protestors Rally in Chicago

by Kane Farabaugh

CHICAGO - Though the NATO Summit starts May 20, protestors are already filling the streets of the host city, Chicago.  Friday was originally supposed to be the opening day protest rally of the G8 meeting in the city.

What started out as an organized, permitted rally against economic injustice led by National Nurses United in Chicago's Daley Plaza ended as a disorganized, unpermitted march by Occupy Wall Street protestors through the financial heart of the city.

But in a show of restraint, Chicago police officers stood by as the protestors moved through the streets, stopping traffic along the way.

Northwestern University Political Science Professor Ian Hurd says the success of the NATO Summit depends on how well the protestors and police get along.

"The dynamic between the police and the protestors is really subtle and sensitive.  And it's not hard for overreaction on one side or the other to snowball into something that neither side was intending," Hurd explained.

​​​Protests in the Windy City got off to a shaky start when President Barack Obama moved the G8 Summit from his hometown of Chicago to the Camp David Presidential retreat.

Jean Ross, Co-President of National Nurses United, says they decided to continue with their rally on what was supposed to be the first day of the Chicago G8 meeting, only to meet resistance from city officials who wanted to deny the group a permit to assemble in Daley Plaza.

"If you are afraid of a large group of nurses and one musician with an acoustic guitar, things are in sad state in this country if that's what scares you.  And no we weren't going to give up and we were going to file for injunctive relief," said Ross.

The city relented, and that acoustic guitar player, former Rage Against the Machine front man Tom Morello, took the stage in front of a crowd that swelled above 2,000.  Morello says the heightened security in Chicago ahead of the NATO Summit sends a signal to world leaders.

"The G8 is not welcome in Chicago," said Morello.  "They ran away like little lambs afraid of the reception that Chicago was going to give them.  You know who else is not welcome? NATO.  They had to call in the National Guard and bus in police from three adjoining states to protect their conference from the people of Chicago."

But Professor Hurd says despite the large force deployed throughout the city, officials are somewhat receptive to the protests.

"When the city of Chicago agreed to host the Summit, it knew there would be protest, and I think they were hoping that would add to the media profile to the event," Hurd added.

That profile will increase on the opening day of the NATO Summit during a march expected to attract up to ten thousand protestors.