In this May 1, 2012, photo, Occupy Chicago activists block the entrance to a Bank of America branch as part of a May Day demonstration in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Even though the G8 participants have fled the great city of Chicago in order to bunker down at Camp David, organizers and protesters continue to diligently prepare for the other major conference scheduled for this week, NATO.
Protest plans were announced by activists during a press conference held in an empty warehouse loft on Chicago’s South Side last week, where press gathered to hear the next steps for the Occupy movement. The conference, organized by Occupy press committee member Rachael Perrotta, and speakers from Occupy affiliated groups, included the speakers’ listing grievances against NATO and also what the public can expect for the week-long protests.
“Why has Rahm Emanuel and world business Chicago brought NATO to our city?” said Zoe Sigman of Occupy Chicago. “A city whose communities are crumbling and schools are underfunded? Whose clinics are being closed? Whose jobs are disappearing and whose homes are being stolen by the banks?”
“All the demands that we’re making—for social justice, economic equality, against the wars and occupations—they’re all linked by opposition to a system that’s out of control,” Ashley Smith told the Chicago Tribune.
Smith is one of the out-of-towners who traveled to Chicago for the summit.
Kevin Rambo, 19, is another visitor representing Occupy San Diego, who told the Trib, “There’s a revitalized activist community because of the Occupy movement, for the most part. Because of the growing number of people who are getting involved, I couldn’t really not protest against NATO.”
Jan Rodolfo, Midwest director of National Nurses United (NNU), an organization of 170,000 nurses across the country and around the world, explained how nurses all over the world are coming to Chicago to protest against—what she explained as—the austerity measures of the G8.
“Students drowning in student loan debt, patients unable to refill their pain mediations and unable to afford health insurance,” Rodolfo said. “These are not the policies discussed in the G8 abstract, but affect our communities.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel briefly went to war with the NNU last week when he demanded the organization move its scheduled May 18 rally with musician Tom Morello from Daley Plaza to a far less visible location, despite the facts that the nurses have possessed a protest permit for quite a while and the plaza has served as a traditional public venue for rallies in Chicago.
Emanuel backed off that decision following protests by the nurses and public supporters, and criticism from Morello.
Rodolfo says the NNU will also be supporting a proposed Robin Hood tax on investment trades of fifty cents on every hundred dollars of trade.
Another major march planned for NATO week has been organized by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and Andy Thayer and the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8), who will lead a procession to the NATO summit at McCormick Place on May 20. Organizers hope thousands of people will turn out to support the veterans as they hand over their service medals to military NATO generals in order to show their opposition to future war plans in the Middle East, as well as the terrible legacy of the “Global War on Terror.”
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) member Aaron Hughes will lead the demonstration. An Iraq war veteran, Hughes emphasized his negative experiences during his tours overseas and the lack of results as funds continue to be diverted away from the social issues within society.
“These Generals that are tasked with the care of service members are not living up to that task,” Hughes said. “And these are the same soldiers that sacrifice themselves everyday for them. How are they to build a democracy for others in Afghanistan?”
“A wrong has occurred. And we live with that wrong every single day,” Hughes added. “We don’t want to be part of a mistake any longer.”
Occupy also plans to march on Boeing without a permit May 21 as part of a ten-day “direct action” plan, including free bus rides for protesters from other cities, and participation in a series of rallies and protests, culminating in a downtown march by thousands of individuals on Sunday.
Zoe Sigman, of Occupy Chicago, said the group would proceed without regard for city permits and aimed to “shut down” Boeing’s main office May 21, a Monday.
“Boeing is a corporate war criminal that profits off violence on a massive scale,” she said. “They’re receiving huge tax cuts from the city of Chicago while they’re making money off of death and war.”
John Dern, a Boeing spokesman, told the Chicago Tribune that the company was assessing the situation and completing its plans and would protect its people and property.
Protesters insist they are committed to a peaceful protest, despite the fact that the march does not have a permit.
Meanwhile, the police presence in Chicago is peaking as activists from out of state begin to flood the city. NBC Chicago reports that “squad cars and vans were seen on nearly every corner of the Mag Mile Sunday night,” adding it was unclear if the police were conducting some kind of drill or merely “show[ing] their numbers”.
The United States Postal Service has also taken the unusual measure of removing all mailboxes along the planned protest routes between Grant Park and McCormick Place, as well as boxes around the convention center itself where the world leaders will convene this weekend, NBC reports.