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  May 23, 2012

NATO Protests In Fortress Chicago


While no mass arrests took place, downtown loop fully militarized
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VOICEOVER: While protesters denounced U.S. militarism abroad during the 2-day NATO summit, the city of Chicago found itself the target of a robust campaign of militarization. Enormous amounts of resources went into security preparations in the months leading up to the summit, and during the large demonstration held on Sunday, thousands of police officers flooded downtown Chicago, flanking protesters during the march and maintaining a constant presence throughout the downtown loop. Code Pink activist and anti-war demonstrator Medea Benjamin found the show of police force during the largely peaceful march to be excessive.

MEDEA BENJAMIN, CODE PINK: Chicago I think sets a terrible example for upcoming conventions like the democratic and republican conventions about how to treat peaceful protesters as if we were the terrorists.

VOICEOVER: Video has emerged of a police van driving into a crowd of pedestrian protesters and injuring at least one of the participants on Saturday night. On Sunday night, five citizen journalists of the Occupy movement were stopped at gunpoint and interrogated before officers attempted to damage some of their equipment and then proceed to follow them for several hours. The previous Wednesday, police raided a home without a warrant and arrested several Occupy activists who they say were planning on making Molotov cocktails to be used on targets in Chicago. At least 3 from the raid and an additional 2 suspects are facing terrorism charges. Their attorneys have suggested the involvement of undercover agents that infiltrated occupy groups. Kris Hermes of the National Lawyer’s Guild says the police’s actions and the city’s enactment of restrictive protest ordinances are part of a strategy to restrict and control political dissent.

KRIS HERMES, NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD (phone audio only): There have been immense shows of force by the Chicago police department and we have noted the targeting of journalists this type of activity is common at national security events and does represent an increased militarization of police this is not singular to Chicago when cities host these types of events that’s the protocol that’s one of the array of tactics that is used to repress dissent and to intimidate people from coming out onto the street in fact the use of terrorism charges is really a way to create hysteria spread fear and have a rationale or pretext for militarizing the streets…the city has had restrictive ordinances which were aimed at limiting free speech protections in the city during the NATO demos… and of course we’ve now seen several other tactics used to discredit activists and make sure that protests are going to happen but they’re going to happen in a controlled situation, overly controlled, and diminished to the furthest extent possible.

VOICEOVER: The federal government has also played a leading role in the security planning for the NATO summit, likely because of all the heads of state visiting Chicago in attendance. A number of Chicago police officers received special crowd control training at the Department of Homeland Security’s “Center for Domestic Preparedness” facility in Alabama. Blackhawk helicopters were seen performing training exercises over downtown Chicago a month before the summit. Local media also released video of what is alleged to be an unmanned drone flying over the outskirts of Chicago, though the authenticity of the video has not been independently verified. Police forces from outside jurisdictions were also brought in to reinforce the thousands of Chicago officers called for duty during the summit, including officers from North Carolina, which will host the upcoming Democratic National Convention in September. Chicago Iraq war veteran Vincent Emanuele participated in Sunday’s rally where he was one of several veterans who symbolically threw their war medals towards the site of the summit in opposition to NATO and US militarism overseas. He and others shared concerns over some of the tactics being deployed by security forces at home in the US.

VINCENT EMANUELE, IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR: The use of drones, riot gear, tactical operations that would otherwise be used in an armed conflict then being transported home and being used against the citizens we find this extremely problematic.

VOICEOVER: Some Chicago citizens like journalist and youth organizer Martin Macia worried about the lasting implications that the Chicago police buildup could have on local communities long after the conclusion of the NATO summit.

MARTIN MACIA, CHICAGO YOUTH ORGANIZER: The local municipal police department has spent a lot of money in purchasing more gear more riot gear more equipment so once this NATO summit is over you’re going to see all that equipment flushed into our communities that are experiencing high crime rates so one of the fears that I have is that instead of addressing economic disparity and economic inequality with economic incentives and job programs I feel like they’re going to create this militarization of the community and the criminalization of youth, the criminalization of young people, people of color already exists in this city.

VOICEOVER: Chicago police did not engage in the mass arrest tactics seen in recent demonstrations over the past several years at events like the G-20 Summits held in Toronto and Pittsburgh. Only 45 demonstrators were arrested in confrontations with police after the conclusion of Sunday’s march, with injuries reported by protesters struck by police batons and 4 officers injured by sticks and bottles thrown by protesters. Activists are eyeing the upcoming Democratic and Republican Party conventions as the next targets of what they are saying is a heightened government crackdown on organized dissent in the United States. Reporting from Chicago, this is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.



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