war veterans, 15,000 people took to the streets of Chicago
to protest on May 20, the opening day of the NATO summit. The demonstration
was the largest antiwar demonstration in the U.S.
in several years. The mass demonstration was the culmination of a week of
activity against NATO and the G8 summits. Both summit meetings were
originally planned for Chicago,
but as protest organizing gained momentum, the G8 summit was moved to Camp David while the NATO summit was
reduced to only 2 days from the week long summits originally planned.
the summit approached, the May 20 demonstration gained impressive support
from many diverse groups, including Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH, area
unions including many SEIU locals, the Chicago Teachers Union, UE locals,
National Nurses United, and many others. Peace organizations, community
organizations and Occupy groups from around the country supported the
actions, as did groups from many countries around the world.
International anti-NATO fighters came from several countries and solidarity
demonstrations were held in London
and several other European cities as well as in Iran, India, Bangladesh, Russia and Canada.
Click here for pictures and reports of some of the international
solidarity actions: http://nepajac.org/internationChicago.htm.
at the rally included Jesse Jackson, Sr., a
member of the German Legislature, Inge Hoger, Malik Mujahid of the Muslim Peace Coalition, Vijay Prashad, author of “Arab Spring, Libyan
Winter,” Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, Col. Ann Wright, Leah
Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace, Carlos Montes of the Committee to
Stop FBI Repression, Larry Holmes of the International Action Center and UNAC leaders, among others. Click here for
UNAC leader Chris Gauvreau’s message to the
march, organized by an ad hoc coalition called the Coalition against NATO and
the G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8), filled the
wide Chicago streets from
curb to curb for several blocks. Those attending were predominantly
youthful and energetic. The march was lead by the Iraq and Afghanistan
war veterans who, at the end of the march, conducted a powerful and historic
ceremony in which they threw their military medals, in the direction of the
NATO summit meeting where more wars in the interest of the 1% were being planned.
There was also a moving reconciliation ceremony with some of the war victims
being represented by members of Afghans for Peace. Click here for the
Democracy Now report of the medal ceremony: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/21/no_nato_no_war_us_veterans.
the end of the ceremony, as organizers urged people to start leaving the
area, long lines of police in riot gear started moving towards the stage,
preventing many from leaving. Police
pushed with their clubs into the crowd as people fell against the metal
barricades erected to contain the demonstrators. Soon the police were
swinging their clubs at protesters in full view of the TV cameras and
reporters; many people were hurt, some seriously. These were not
lone-individual, out of control cops; this was clearly a planned
attack. Perhaps it was needed by the city to justify the tremendous
costs of the security apparatus used by the Emanuel administration, including
pre-summit scare tactics and violence baiting protestors. But it was not the
demonstrators who were violent, it was the police. It is not peace
activists who are violent, it is NATO.
Click here for a video of the speakers at the May 20 rally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1dh0E6-BAY&feature=youtu.be
civil liberties fight
first put in an application for a permit to march and rally in July of 2011.
Five months later, we were informed that there would be no protests during
the summits. But as a huge outcry developed, and after press
conferences and protests organized by CANG8, Occupy Chicago and many unions,
we were granted a permit. During this period, UNAC put a full page ad
in the Chicago Sun Times with a statement in support of the right to protest
signed by hundreds of people from the U.S.
and people from 13 other countries. During this period the Emanuel
administration also proposed, and got passed, new restrictive ordnances
governing protests. These were also protested by CANG8, Occupy and the
months leading up to the anti-NATO and G8 protests, the Chicago
police and city administration urged people to leave the area and scared
people with stories of how the protesters would be violent. CANG8
representatives continually told people that we were holding a peaceful,
family friendly demonstration. We organized “peace guides”
to ensure that the march and rally would happen as planned. Up until
the police attack on the demonstration at the end of the rally, it had been
the days leading up to May 20th, the police raided the homes of several
demonstrators and made several arrests. A total of around100 people
were arrested in the week preceding the demonstration. Three young men,
now known as the NATO 3, were charged with very serious terrorism
crimes. It appears that this was a set-up similar to the preemptive
prosecutions that Muslims have faced, as a provocateur was used in the same
ways they are used to frame Muslims as terrorists. Click here for the
Democracy Now segment on these charges: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/22/attorney_nato_3_activists_detained_on.
here for Indymedia videos of the police attack: http://chicago.indymedia.org/node/946.
here for pictures of the police provocateurs:
donate to the defense of the NATO 3 by clicking here: http://www.wepay.com/donations/nato-arrestee-bail-fund.
activities during the week
The People's Summit.
to 800 people attended the People’s Summit,
which took place at the Occupy Chicago indoor space on May 12th and 13th.
Sponsored by CANG8 and Occupy Chicago, the People’s Summit
had people coming together to project a different future than the one being
planned by NATO and the G8. Messages were read to the Summit from the Afghan Youth Volunteers and
from Malalai Joya, an antiwar activist and
former member of Afghanistan's
parliament, who was scheduled to attend the Summit
and the May 20th demonstration but was sick and unable to attend. Suraia Sahar, a member of
Afghans for Peace based in Toronto
read these messages. The Summit
also heard from Mumia Abu-Jamal, who addressed the
crowd from prison by phone. Other speakers included, Kathy Kelly, Ann
Wright, Abdul Malik Mujahid,
a leader of the Muslim Peace Coalition, Occupy leaders, National Nurses
United, and other union leaders as well as UNAC leaders and activists from
Click below for some videos of the People's Summit:
Following the People’s Summit,
Occupy Chicago organized actions every day leading up to and during the NATO
summit. There were also actions organized by other groups as Chicago
became a protest town during this period, with the media covering all the
The International League for People’s Struggle, held
their founding conference for their U.S. group in Chicago during the week and
organized a contingent to march in the May 20th demonstration. Having their conference in Chicago to help
build the May 20th demonstration was an act of solidarity with the anti-NATO and G8 demonstrators. Joe Lombardo, UNAC co-coordinator gave
greeting from UNAC to their conference
One very important action was a
demonstration organized by the National Nurses United union. This
action pushed for a stock transfer tax, which would solve some of the
country’s economic problems by forcing the rich to pay a share for the
financial crisis they created. This demonstration included several
thousand nurses and their supporters. NNU also provided free buses for people
to come to their demonstration and to the May 20th mass
How did the protest come about?
June, a UNAC leadership meeting in New
York City took note of the fact that both NATO and the
G8 countries would be holding their summits in the U.S.
We did not know where they would be taking place, but we decided that we
would make it a priority to organize opposition to these summits. We
felt that having both summits together was a unique opportunity to draw the
link between the economic and military policies of the ruling 1%.
it became known that Chicago
would be the place, we sought permits and held a meeting in Chicago last August, where CANG8 was set up
as an ad hoc coalition to organize for a mass demonstration and the
People’s Summit. Over
the next months, many other groups joined the effort, and the actions were
able to get broad sponsorship.
May 20th demonstration was one of the largest antiwar
demonstrations ever held in Chicago.
Most national antiwar demonstrations have been held in Washington, New York,
or on the West Coast. The distance from these large coastal population
centers made it difficult to get people from these areas to Chicago,
yet we were able to hold a large action and support a week of activity that
created a discussion about the role of NATO and the G8. Without our
presence and our actions, this would not have happened. This may have
been the first time people in the U.S.
have protested against NATO, and our demonstration may have been the largest
anti-NATO demonstration ever.
Chicago city and
federal administrations went on a relentless campaign to try and keep people
away by saying that we were going to be violent. New regulations were
proposed in Chicago to silence
demonstrators. At every stage we countered this with a campaign in
support of our right to protest and for civil liberties. This helped
push back their attacks on civil liberties and will help all those who seek
to have their voices heard. However, it is clear that the violence
baiting did play a role in scaring some people away from the
know from past experience that it is very difficult to build large
demonstrations during election periods. We knew Chicago
would be an especially difficult place to build a demonstration during this
election period, but we still managed to do so.
activists on the ground in Chicago
did a great job of pulling together the demonstration and leading the fight
in defense of our civil liberties and the right to protest. Their actions
strengthened the movement in Chicago
made new international contacts that will strengthen and broaden UNAC and the
antiwar movement in the future.
will now move forward helping to build actions at the national political
conventions and on Oct 7, the anniversary of the beginning of Afghanistan
war. In New York on June
17th, we will join with the NAACP and others to demonstrate
against racial profiling and Stop and Frisk practices. We will continue
to fight along with our Muslim brothers and sister against Islomophobia and against the wars at home and
abroad. Join us!
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