Published May 23, 2012 10:10 PM
WW photos: Bryan G. Pfeifer
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 protests
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.