By Ruth Ravve
The battle drums can already be heard in Chicago, as police and protestors plan for the NATO summit later this month. “War is going to break out on the streets,” one demonstrator excitedly told Fox News. “Big plans are being made.”
It’s anyone’s guess whether such bluster is mere pre-protest posturing or the prelude to a serious confrontation. But Chicago is shaping up this month as the latest focal point in the debate over economic policy and the movement known as Occupy.
Chicago initially was to host the G-8 meeting, as well, but it was moved for security reasons to the presidential retreat at Camp David, which poses fewer logistical hurdles than a city of three million people.
As for the NATO summit, it’s only scheduled for two days, May 20 and 21, but dignitaries will begin arriving in Chicago days earlier, as the city prepares by closing roads and some buildings.
Big-name protestors, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and 1960s radical Bill Ayers, are expected to be among the demonstrators. In order to prepare for police confrontation, training sessions are being held for protestors around the city, which include educating dissenters on “non-violent direct action,” said Zoe Sigman, of Occupy Chicago.
At a press conference Thursday, held in a grungy building in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, a group of mostly white 20-somethings lined up to take their turns speaking to the media about their various causes for protest, which include war, poverty, health care and jobs.
“Welcome to the Chicago spring!” said a smiling Sigman, apparently making reference to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East. Occupy Chicago is not obtaining the permits that the city required to protest because “its our right to walk down any street,” member Rachael Perrotta said. “We’re bringing in people from all over the country, so expect huge crowds and huge crowds will happen.”
Another group leader, Andy Thayer, from the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda, or CANG8, urged supporters to ignore threats from Chicago officials. “Don’t believe the fear-mongering of Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel,” he said.
Thayer promised they’d stand up to authority. “If there are any violations of free-speech rights, we’ll place the blame first and foremost on President Obama,” he said, “This president has got to say to Rahm Emanuel …cut the hell out, guarantee the rights.” Supporters cheered.
It’s estimated that tens of thousands of people are going to arrive by plane, car and bus for what the demonstrators said will be “10 days of action” in the Windy City.
The “action” includes mass marches down city streets, including the ones closed by police for the NATO summit. When asked whether the group plans any confrontations, Perrotta said, “If the police get violent with us, we’re prepared”.
Perrotta also said Occupy Chicago will attempt a shutdown of Boeing’s headquarters, and “there will be events that pop up that have not been disclosed yet”. On the website AnarchistNews.org, which has worked to boost up support for the protest movements, one posting calls for “a united mass mobilization” during the summit. At the Thursday event, protest group leaders handed out a packet which listed websites where supporters and the media could get the latest information on where and when to follow the action.
“We plan to show Chicago what democracy looks like,” one speaker said. It all begins this weekend with “The People’s Summit” scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The People’s Summit is touted as “a democratic counter-summit” and will include workshops to “educate our communities” on how to “mobilize for radical democracy.”
The highlight of the weeklong extravaganza will culminate on the Sunday of the conference, when demonstrators will join together for the big march “to fight NATO along with all of our allies.”
“Instead of funding death and destruction on the other side of the globe, our tax dollars should support services in our community,” Occupy Chicago member Jackie Spreadbury said in a news release handed out to media. “We will resist NATO, the military arm of the 1 percent.” If any of the demonstrators find themselves in legal trouble after its all over, protest leaders claim members of the National Lawyers Guild are standing by, to work pro-bono for them.