Protesting NATO War Crimes in Chicago
Yesterday was pretty intense. We arrived at Grant Park to a heavy police presence. Some of us had not slept well the night before after hearing the news of that the police had raided the homes of NATO protesters and then falsely charged them of “plotting terrorism". The police had also driven a car into a crowd of non-violent NATO protesters that same night.
After arriving at the rally Sunday we were immediately stopped by the Chicago Police. They asked us who we were and why we were carrying PVC piping (long, thin plastic tubes). We told them what it was for; poles for carrying our banners. They told us that it could be used for something else, asked us what organization we were a part of and how many people were in our organization. They ran our drivers licenses and then proceeded to taunt us, asking if we would carry a banner for their precinct. After asking multiple times whether we were being detained or free to go, they confiscated our pvc piping and let us go. It was absolutely ridiculous! Here we are going to protest some of the most murderous war criminals who have OPENLY bombed entire villages and ordered executions of civilians and WE were being treated like the criminals. The only answer the powers that be have to the illegal, immoral wars is repression against those who protest.
When we got to the rally and met up with our crew it was heartening to see all the people who showed up despite the police repression and we felt even greater resolve to bring those who are most affected by NATO, the NATO victims, into the spotlight. Video here:
We had a beautiful contigent with 8 banners in 8 different languages that all read “Humanity and the planet come first. Stop the crimes of the U.S. government." We also had images of some of the death and destruction NATO has unleashed in the middle east and south asia.
This set a really important tone for the day, and many people of different nationalities were attracted to our contigent because of this. There was also lots of international media that interviewed us off of seeing our banners. One Pakistani man was so happy to see that we were bringing attention to those who have been killed in Pakistan by NATO (watch him chanting in Urdu in front of the Urdu banner). He took video of our banners so that people in Pakistan could see that there are Americans who are opposed to what NATO is doing - most don't know that any Americans are opposed to the NATO bombings.
When the march began we chanted “ What Comes First? Humanity and The Planet” This was very moving because you had people from all over the world who were showing that they care about what happens to people around the world. One person put it, “They have a world military alliance, why shouldn’t we have an alliance with the people of the world.” We chanted in "Shut down to NATO" in Urdu and in Spanish. We showed the enlarged images of the civilians casualties to people on the sidelines and told them this is why they were protesting NATO. Many people took flyers and shook their heads at the images. At one point in the march a large group of people were chanting “Join Us, Join Us Cause the World Can’t Wait” and people joined in off the sidewalks, took pictures of our banners. Different people spoke on the bullhorn, saying things like, “You [NATO] kill our children while they are eating breakfast, while they go to school.”
After the march stopped at its destination, Iraq and Afghanistan era war veterans (including Scott Olsen from Oakland) threw their medals over the fence towards the NATO summit with each of them saying why they were giving their medals back and sharing common cause first and foremost with the Iraqis and Afghanistan people. Video here: One veteran threw his medal for our friend Anthony Wagner, an Iraq veteran who passed away last year. Anthony toured the Midwest to high school classrooms with World Can’t Wait to talk to students about his experience in the military and why they shouldn’t join.
Jason Hurd, a fomer combat medic who spent 10 years in the U.S. army said, ”I’m here to return my Global War on Terror Service Medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan, I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe."
Reports later that day showed the police brutally beating protesters, picking people off and arresting them. More to come on this repression.
Overall it was an amazing day and hopefully the beginning of people really stepping up to oppose the Obama administration’s wars (covert and open) and find renewed determination to stop them.
By Emma Kaplan, World Can't Wait