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Nato Protest | Occupied Stories

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Knowing the Value of Nothing


On May 17th I arrived in Chicago by bus. Then drifted along the el train with the sweet smell of wet cement and electricity; Chicago in the spring. The City is low-­tech beautiful and almost charming.

On May 18th I rallied for health care and ate deep dish pizza. The cops seemed tolerant until the sun went down.

On May 19th I marched with my brothers and sisters through the park and to the mayors home. CPD was once again tolerant until the moon came out, then they turned into werewolves and ran over protesters with vans and ‘bully’ clubs.

On May 20th I Occupied NATO for the ones who couldn’t. I ran through the city streets at night in a fleeting act of defiance toward the merciless Helegalian Dialetic and still have the blisters to prove it.

It’s only been a week but it feels like a year.

It also feels like a bee on my eyeball, nausea and a budding revolution wrapped in a headache. It’s hard to believe a little over a week ago I was in Chicago marching the streets in protest with my arms full with grievances that needed redressing. Good-god we need a revolution or at least a reevaluation of the whole damn thing; the ‘system’ is poisoned.

There were anarchist, socialist, communist, anti-­‐capitalist, Ron Paul Revolutionaries, clowns, vets, charlatans, buffoons, peacers, truthers, birthers and I’m sure some jokers, smokers and midnight-­tokers. As diverse a crowd as I have ever seen. Different races and colors and ages. Professional and nonprofessionals alike; together to protest an entity that some think has out served its purpose. Or worse has become a power so evil it aims to rule the world. Don’t look here for answers – I have far too many questions. (You might want to take a gander at “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins for a truly eye-­opening read).

What exactly is happening with this movement? What does it value? What are the goals? Does anyone really give a shit? And what happens next?

Here’s my honest take: we’re almost completely fucked!

Not exactly what you wanted to read? Okay, here’s why I say that (and yes, ‘almost’ is the operative word):

The Occupy Movement is sliding off the same cliff as the old Tea Party. I say ‘old’ because the Tea Party now is only a shell of what it was and could have been. And the cliff is the co-option of the movement by shaping the narrative to what ever “the powers that be” desire.

For the Tea Party, Neo-cons took over and the left fought it with a racist, old, white and anti-immigrant narrative.

As for Occupy, the leftists are taking over and have been demonized by the right’s dirty, young, drug addled anarchist-Marxist narrative.

Both narratives are, at least, incomplete to a point of irrelevance and, at most total horseshit. But that is what’s hitting the news and like it or not the narrative is important.

Blame it on an educational system gone to hell or social engineering but we are no longer critical thinkers. As a whole we are robots. We haven’t been vigilant. Narrative is a cheap but effective tool to control you and pass along information predigested; we are all on socio­political feeding tubes. Thank you, big brother. And it hasn’t even gotten really bad yet. Is anyone listening?

I’ve been a part of both movements, Tea Party and Occupy, and that’s not the way it is. Before the Tea Party was commandeered by Neo-cons and before what looks to be a potential socialist take over of Occupy, both were/are made up of everyday people pissed off about corruption and a ‘rigged game’. In fact I would go so far as to say they are virtually the same at their core. Just like the Right and Left is being challenged as really being the same thing; I, similarly, see the 1st Tea Partiers, the Occupiers and even the Ron Paul Revolutionaries as the same.

If taken a step further, the right vs. wrong meme, that naturally replaces the right vs. left meme, puts all of the above on the ‘right’ side and the statist pushing us toward one world government (as conveniently illustrated by NATO) on the ‘wrong’ side. Anti-­Corruption, anti-­insider dealings, anti-­nontransparent government – this is the tip of the spear.

Well, it should be.

I’m beginning to doubt weather Occupy can pull their shit together fast enough. I love the fighting spirit but without a center to coalesce around we can’t do it alone. If you haven’t noticed, the militarization of our police forces across the country keeps accelerating. And yet crime is down almost everywhere. So what gives? They’re preparing for you or them or us depending on where you’re sitting. Dissent is no longer tolerable. It’s dangerous. Which I think is how it’s supposed to be.

Why blame us, the 99.9%? For instance we told our representative where to stick SOPA and PIPA. We thought they would get it – hands off the Internet. No censorship! But instead they try over and over to sneak another one of these bills through. Now it’s CISPA. And soon we will be talking about UN mandates. Just who the hell are these assholes representing? Isn’t that a fair question to ask considering the facts? I hope I’m wrong about Occupy but I can see a scenario where Occupy doesn’t finally sharpen its spear with an idea we can all get behind. Like liberty. Or smaller government. Or ending the war on terror. Or breaking up the banks via Glass-­Steagall. Or ending the Federal Reserve. If we don’t make this movement more inclusive we’ll never have the support we need. Less talk about carbon credit schemes and more about our loss of fundamental rights is a step in the right direction.

We need to question everything.

What causes a movement to live or die?

The short answer is simply the people armed with an idea whose time has come… or not. It’s a romantic dream, isn’t it? Underdogs against all odds, fighting the powers that be with an idea that is universally true. Sorry, ‘big government’ anything isn’t going to cut it. The preservation of our natural law rights as illustrated in the Magna Charta, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are to be protected first and foremost.

As Fredrick Douglas said, “power concedes nothing without a demand!” But what are we supposed to demand with a collective voice when so much is broken? Vote everyone out? An armed revolution? Await the spiritual shift in consciousness?

Winston Churchill said:

“Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all odds against you and only the precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.”

The struggle has begun. Where we are in Churchill’s quote I do not know but the thought does chill me.

On May 20th I woke up with pangs in my stomach and a light hangover. I took the red line with a bagel to Lake and walked to Grant Park from there.

On May 20th Chicago was in lockdown but corruption was put on notice. The zeitgeist was with us. Hell, it was us.

On May 20th roughly 40 vets threw their metals over a fence in downtown Chicago in a brave act of defiance to regain a little of the humanity the war on terror had taken from them. One former soldier, Greg Miller who served in Iraq in 2009, said, clutching one of his metals, “The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, to service members, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be before they indoctrinated it out of you.”

Maybe we should begin to think about the metals we get in return for our complacency and capitulation of conscience. Maybe it’s part of what Oscar Wilde was talking about when he spoke of “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Occupy Everything. Tea Party Forever. Ron Paul Revolution. The time is nigh. Hang together or hang separately.

-Winston Smith-

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An Anarchist’s Odyssey to Chicago: Part 3


Editors note: This is a three part series. Check out Part one and  Part two. And see all our stories from the #noNATO actions here. 

Monday May 21st 2012

Lucas, Emillio and myself woke up just after 9am, and made it down to the rally for the march against Boeing just before we circled up around 11am or so.  Boeing decided to close its headquarters rather than deal with a demonstration.  We had won.  I popped another party popper since we were all waking up and cheering a bit.  It was a small victory to be sure but a significant one given that slowing down that company’s business for even a day may have very well saved lives.  We learned about how Boeing had been given tax exemptions for well over two decades and free slave labor from prisons in order to build death machines to sell back to the government…in addition to all the really uncomfortable commercial jets they make.

The local organizers prepared some street theater for this action and protestors divided into groups of people who would lie down on the ground and pretend to die while other protestors drew chalk circles around them while pretending to be drones.  Emillio asked if was going to join in and I was, but my job is to play the pandeiro and help keep the beat or make it more interesting when we march.  I also saw other organizers stalking up not only on standard issue Revolutionary Games “weaponry” such as silly string, soap bubbles, bags of confetti and confetti cannons similar to the one’s I always like to bring on marches, but also lots of red balloons, our calling card logo.  Seeing unfamiliar faces flying the colors of my affinity group on their march made me feel completely at home and left me wondering as to which muse had spread the same ideas among so many deliberately disparate strangers.

Everyone on the march had been marching and working hard for days and weeks, but our bodies had grown increasingly addicted to the flow of adrenaline and endorphins and we let everyone who saw us in the streets and online know that we were at war with war and that we knew it had every bit as much to do with our economic enslavement as the devil’s bargains we had been forced to sign in exchange for education and homes.

It was a good march, I caught up with Lou and Matt, I had been playing my pandeiro and chanting when a photographer with a really cool looking old camera asked me if she could take my picture for a project she was working on.  Her name was Annie and she’d been taking pictures of occupiers from occupations all over the country and had accumulated nearly 500 portraits.  I thought it was a really interesting project and we stepped out of the march for a moment so she could focus the camera and get some good light.  She told me she was taking a picture of a movement and not me.  I liked that.  Annie wrote down my name, where I was from and she asked me just as she’d asked the others in her portraits what I would wish for if I were given one wish.  I managed to dodge the question somewhat by telling her I’d wish for the wisdom in order to make the best use of that one wish.

We chatted about Annie’s art projects and my academic projects for the rest of the march up to Boeing headquarters.  I took lots of pictures of the action outside of Boeing which included enough chalk, silly string, soap bubbles, explosions of confetti and paper airplanes to make children from the staunchest republican families want to stop and play with anarchists.

Nicole and John found me on the march again.  We traded our stories from the previous evening, marched, and chanted together through the streets of downtown Chicago from Boeing HQ past big corporate bank branches toward the last conference of the NATO summit on Michigan Ave.

I had been lost in conversation with John while we had paused onMichigan Ave for what must have been a moment of silence when he handed Occupied Stories flyers to three guys who had been casually listening to our conversation.  I’d heard one of them talk about our position next to a bus to someone on the other end of his phone before John asked him about what had brought him to the march and to write about it as well.  I thought that John was sincerely trying to do outreach so I asked the guy the same question a little differently to get him talking.  He said they were machinists and they were just there to check the march out.  He was vague, I asked them why they joined the march assuming they had wandered in having just seen it, but the most vocal of them with shades and cap said they new the march was coming but they were still vague and evasive.  Once the march started again and we drifted away from them  John told me he figured that they were undercover cops given that he saw them recording what we were talking about with their phones.  The thought hadn’t struck me as my mind had been elsewhere.  He also told me he’d seen perhaps six other people who were probably police slip on black block attire the previous evening.

The nature of oppression in our country is such that there is great joy to be found in transgressing against the system however transgression is hardly the same thing as terrorism, and these undercover cops at best caught me ranting, loosely based on the writings of Foucault and Nietzsche about how I think that everyone in society would probably be happier if our criminal justice system was still based on public torture like it used to be during the dark ages as opposed to the modern system of confined imprisonment we use today.  I could only wonder as to what those three undercover dicks and their backup could possibly think of the notion.

I later introduced Nicole and John to Annie and they hit it off as I thought they might.  The four of us decided to take a break from the rally and grab some deep dish pizza before John and Nicole had to split.  I walked around ‘The Bean’ while Annie took Nicole and John’s portrait.  She asked them both the same question about their one wish once we had made to the restaurant.  Those of us who are involved with this movement are able to put a lot of trust in one another because we see each other so often in the streets, but most of us don’t actually know that much about one another other than the raw measure and strength of character which becomes nakedly visible to all out in the streets.  It was a pleasure to slow down, eat pizza far better than almost any which can be found in New Yorkand talk without chants in the background.  A few Chicago Police Officers had stopped by for lunch as well and were seated at a table next to ours.  We exchanged pleasantries and stories.  One of them told me that there were cameras all over the area where I had been clubbed.  He didn’t seem especially fond of Rahm Emmanuel, ‘he’s the guy who signs my checks’ was the officer’s response when I asked his opinion of the politician.

I parted ways with Annie and then John and Nicole after we had finished eating.  They had to catch a flight and I had to retrace my steps and try to figure out the location of where I’d been whacked by the riot place so I’d have something to tell the lawyers.  I figured it was definitely on Wabash just off of VanBueren like the caption in the photo I later saw online of Shon and Becca checking me out when it had happened.

Tuesday May 22nd 

I was scolded by a cashier for using a woman’s bathroom at a rest stop somewhere close to the edge of Pennsylvania during our bus odyssey home, I told her it was a New York thing but that I had remembered to put the seat back down.  I also heard Mandolin say it was a New York thing as well after he walked out of it a moment later.  I used a bathroom in a different area of the rest station after I’d finished some really bad lunch.  The attendant mentioned to another man standing there that she only had another hour left to go in her day.  “The longest hour of the whole day I bet?”  She looked at me and said “honey you wouldn’t believe the kinda day I’ve had.”  I involuntarily smirked as I glanced down from her to pull change from my wallet; I may have also shook my head a bit in disbelief at her last remark and said “tell me about it” in the tersest acquired Brooklyn accent I could manage.  She asked me how my day could possibly be any worse than hers.  I told her I was stuck on an 18 hour bus ride back from the NATO protests in Chicago with five staples in my head from a riot baton.

The cashier stared at me in disbelief.  She made no attempt to convince me that her day had been more difficult than mine.  She paused with disbelief for a moment of such a duration that I wasn’t sure if we were having a conversation.  I angled over to the display case at the edge of the counter where all of the knives were because I have a shameless knife fetish.  I realized I probably shouldn’t salivate over them while talking to these folks and turned my attention back towards them with a polite smirk.  Clearly thrown off by the business suit I was wearing as much as my story, the cashier asked me why the police were beating on me given I was dressed the way I was and not my gritty occupier friends outside the rest stop.  I mentioned that I hadn’t been in my suit at the time, but that the police were still pretty indiscriminate.  It was a lot for them to process.  The Occupy Movement, at least in NYC has certainly not managed to abolish the boundaries of class which still painfully persist even in our community, however we certainly have managed to maintain our solidarity despite those boundaries.

The cashier asked me if I thought our protests had done any good.  I told her that the protests against NATO had turned into a 70,000 strong anti-war statement.  I told the cashier and the other guy in the store about the veterans who talked about what the war is really like before they threw their medals away and the action against Boeing and how they didn’t pay taxes and used slave labor from prisons.  I told them it did a lot of good I thumped my fist against my heart as I left them with a polite nod and smile.

The view of New York City from over that northern bridge over the Hudson was beautiful.  It made all of us anxious to get off of the bus.  Many on the bus wanted to start march directly after leaving the bus.  They got their chance with a Montreal solidarity march from Washington Square Park to Union Square shortly later that evening.  I swung byUnion Square after I’d missed the march.  Thorin, Lauren, Jack and others looked like they were ready for more marching.  Their choice is to take the streets or to live in them but I gratefully marched to the subway stop leading back to my apartment and shortly thereafter occupied my bed.

-Harrison Schultz-

Editors note: This is a three part series. Check out Part one and  Part two. And see all our stories from the #noNATO actions here.

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99Solidarity Occu-Bus Day 7: Heading ‘Home’


Editor’s note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. Read parts onetwothree, four (parts one and two), five and six.

New York, NY – For very personal reasons I don’t respond well to verbal abuse, and people had been yelling at me from the moment my cab pulled up in proximity to the bus I needed to catch. The wheels of the vehicle I was in had barely ground to a halt before the screaming started.

“You can’t pull up here.”

“But I’m getting on one of the buses.”

“Hurry up.”

“I’m trying to.”

“Move it.”

“I can’t, I have to pay the driver and get my bags.”

“Move along.”

I’m no futzer or dilly-dallier for fucks sake. And the cops wouldn’t exactly be happy if I vacated the cab without paying my tab. Argh! What did they want me to do that I wasn’t already doing?

Flustered, I threw myself and my bags onto the first New York bound bus I found. Only to be yelled at again. This time by an alternate driver, for some bizarre reason involving his need to sit in a specific seat so he could use a boombox to help him sleep?!?

“You don’t want to be in this bus if I can’t sleep. NO ONE DOES!!!!!”

I was getting sick of men taking their frustrations out on me. Fuck this shit.

I jumped off that bus and on to the next, only to be yelled at again, this time because it was “full.” Only it wasn’t. Fuck this shit, again.

Having run out of New York buses available to board, I collapsed with my bags on the pavement as chaos reigned around me. The presence of the police, barking unnecessary and nonsensical orders, which in turn harassed and panicked riders, was irrational. It was merely causing undue stress and hindering proceedings with absolutely zero tactical gain. After all, they were getting what they wanted, us “trouble makers” were leaving town. Like most abusive situations though, it seemed to be a power play, an action that gave the abuser the illusion of control. I hope someone felt better after yelling at me.

I sat on the cold hard concrete for a couple of minutes with my head in my hands, trying to tune out the un-checked aggression I’d been accosted with. I looked up and saw a friendly face walking towards me. It belonged to Stephen Webber, the deceptively unassuming and utterly awesome individual that had wrangled funds for the fleet of fourteen 99% Solidarity buses from the NNU. He told me not to worry, that two more NYC buses were waiting in the wings. Then, as he approached, so did the swing driver from the first bus I’d tried to board. I guess he felt guilty (he was), and offered to carry my bags to the second bus, which had now magically found room for me.

Ensconced in the relative calm of the bus, I got myself situated. Having captained one of the three buses out from LA, I’d bought a power converter with me to create a charging zone for the power hungry livestreamers aboard my designated media bus. As I negotiated with the diver as to how best to distribute his cigarette lighter-sourced juice, a female fellow Brit chirped, “Are you English?”

I turned around to see who’d inquired and immediately honed in on a girl with a crimson shock of hair. There was only one person it could be: UK journalist Laurie Penny a.k.a. my recent Twitter acquaintance @PennyRed.

I’d started following her after my friend, SG contributor @ZDRoberts had raved about her work, and had subsequently posted an excerpt from her Notes from the New Age of Dissent book – an essay entitled “In Defense of Cunt” – on this very blog. Consequently, when @PennyRed’s message saying “@99Solidarity trying to get in touch with you” showed up in my timeline, I’d immediately reached out to help. Turned out she’d been commissioned to write a story on the Chicago #NoNATO trip by The Independent, and needed a spot on one of our buses – something, as a member of the 99% Solidarity team, I’d been able to facilitate.

At the time, she’d told me she was only taking the bus one way, out from New York to Chicago, so it was a pleasant surprise to see her on the return ride. It was this kind of serendipity, born of often adverse situations, that’d been a reoccurring theme in the past few days. After all, if the first bus driver hadn’t been so offensive, I’d have never boarded this one, and we’d never have met.

The ride back otherwise was pretty uneventful, and, being a mere 15-hour journey, was far less grueling than my 50-hour epic ride out from LA. As the NY skyline appeared on the horizon, the mostly slumbering bus began to stir. “Welcome back to the rotten apple,” shouted one passenger as I stared at the deceptively beautiful view ahead. Closing in on our Upper West Side drop off point, another hollered with barely a hint of irony, “Mic Check! Does anyone know if there’s an action scheduled for today?”

[The 99% Solidarity Buses Arrive Back In NYC]
 

As a bus captain and member of the 99% Solidarity crew, at times, organizing occupiers was akin to herding cats. But that’s kind of the point. These free-thinking individuals doggedly refuse to follow the crowd like sheep, and are not easily led. It’s this very quality that more Americans could do to be imbued with. They could also use a little of the tenacity of occupiers, something that those who claim the Occupy movement is over clearly underestimate.

My coast-to-coast adventure had been a trip in more ways than one. Thought I’d traveled across the country, I’d actually seen very little of it from the microcosm of the occu-bus. But I’d been rewarded in other ways. As I rolled across America, I’d forged new friendships, strengthened the bonds of existing ones, and substantially extended my network of like-minded activists. As a group, we’d learned a few things too; That a little organization goes a long way and that united by a common cause we could depend on and trust in the kindness of strangers, especially if those strangers self-identified as occupiers.

Though 99% Solidarity had always hoped that the Chicago trip would lead to greater cohesion and an exchange of ideas between occupiers from different cities, no one had anticipated it would lead to an actual exchange of occupiers to the extent that it did. As I write this, I’m on sabbatical from LA, occupying my friend, investigative journalist @Greg_Palast’s couch in NYC. And, having been made to feel so at home by the Occupy Chicago crew, all of whom were strangers to me prior to the advent of this trip, I look forward to paying it forward to the new members of OccupyLA once I return to the arbitrary place on this rock hurtling through space that I currently refer to as home.

Talking of which, one of the other things I realized on this fantastic journey is that regardless of whether I’m in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or my native United Kingdom, when I’m amongst occupiers I am home.

Full disclosure: Nicole Powers has been assisting with 99% Solidarity’s efforts and is in no way an impartial observer. She is proud of this fact.

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Solidarity During Wartime in the Streets of Chicago


Editors note: This is part of a collection of first-person accounts from #noNATO. Don’t let the corporate media speak for you, if you were in Chicago tell us what you saw. Submit your story. This post originally appeared on Shareable. Photos by Aaron Cynic and John Robb except where otherwise noted. View the full gallery. Additional photo and news aggregation by Paul M. Davis using Storify.

Chicago, IL -My feet are completely blistered, my bones are sore. I’m dehydrated, bruised and beyond exhausted. I’ve spent four days on the streets of Chicago, running through streets and alleys, cameras strapped to my body, frantically trying to take in as much information about the protests surrounding the NATO summit on Sunday and Monday.

For two days, world leaders gathered in Chicago to discuss what tens of thousands of activists described as the world’s largest game of Risk, where the stakes amount to life and death for citizens around the globe.

Some might accuse me of hyperbole, but considering the massive amount of civilian casualties (including women and children) in countries like Libya and Kosovo, bombed by NATO forces, the silent voices of the dead would probably disagree.

For the average Chicago resident, hosting the NATO summit fell short of what Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted in nearly every way. City officials and other higher-ups in the Democratic party heralded the meeting of world leaders as a chance to showcase Chicago as a “world class city,” hoping it would be a boon to the local economy. We were assured of peace in the streets. According to officials, massive security spending will be reimbursed by the federal government, though the city’s coffers remain empty.

The city spent months preparing to host the summits, as did activists both locally and nationally. Thousands bused into town beginning many days before the summit, but Chicago residents had been chattering about them many months prior. Many concerns were over logistics – hosting world leaders means an incredible amount of security which would snarl traffic, make traveling difficult, and shut down business as usual in the city for days.

NATO protest night march 5/20/12. Photo by Kate Harnedy.

Between media hype surrounding potential protester violence, resulting in local businesses boarding up their windows (and shutting down completely for a few days, in some cases,) and the logistical inconveniences created, authorities did half the job of protesters for them by effectively shutting down the city. Places often bustling with tourists and traffic were virtual ghost towns, as many people wanted to avoid dealing with the drama a meeting of world leaders who often ignore their subjects creates.

On Saturday, May 19th, activists who came to Chicago to protest the NATO summit held over the weekend headed to the city’s north side in a show of solidarity with local activists fighting to save six neighborhood mental health clinics already closed or slated for closure. Photos by Aaron Cynic, more atDiatribe Media.

During the months of buildup to the summit, local activists managed to connect NATO to a host of issues which affect the residents of Chicago on a daily basis. Our mayor and city can afford to pay for the 1% to play, but can’t afford to fix our crumbling school system, mental health care system, public transportation and more. Members of various activist groups, including the Mental Health Movement, Stand Up Chicago, Occupy Chicago and many more staged countless marches, rallies, sit ins and occupations.

Two local clinics closed by the city still have a 24 hour presence maintained outside their barred doors. A coalition called CANG8 and Occupy Chicago both spent months making banners, obtaining permits, planning routes and rallying activists to shout through the streets in one clear, deafening voice “NONATO.” Meanwhile, the city prepared for war, militarizing its police force with shiny new “less than lethal” weapons, body armor, and surveillance equipment to confront what most activists were planning as a peaceful protest.

The march continued snaking through the streets for hours, and the crowd slowly dissipated, but hundreds still swarmed the streets. Eventually, at another point where protesters were stopped, a Chicago police van attempted to push its way through the crowd. As protesters attempted to stop the van from pushing its way through demonstrators, the driver hit the accelerator, striking at least two people and sending one to the hospital.

These instances and others were the catalyst for the mood of Sunday’s march on McCormick Place, where more than ten thousand marched for miles down Michigan Avenue to show their disapproval for NATO. The main march was completely peaceful and permitted, but as we drew nearer to the end point, one could feel the tension on both sides of police lines. A group of veterans ceremoniously threw medals they had been awarded in the direction of their generals from a makeshift stage, each telling their story of why they no longer wanted them. 

A woman from Afghans For Peace spoke of the continued struggle Afghan people face under NATO occupation. Well before the planned conclusion of the rally, police began massing, riot gear at the ready, and the more militant marchers readied themselves for an imminent confrontation everyone seemed to know would take place when dispersal orders went down.

Thousands of people streamed out of the area while others decided to stay and attempt to push forward, towards the actual location of the summit, and the gloves came off. Police wielded their batons indiscriminately, striking protesters, journalists and legal observers. Protesters pushed back, flinging a barricade at one point, throwing bottles at another. Many were injured or arrested. The area was cordoned off, no one was allowed in or out. Friends, family and colleagues were cut off from information regarding their brothers and sisters, and the predictions of blood staining the streets of Chicago came true. In the aftermath, protesters regrouped and led non-permitted marches through The Loop. On Sunday evening, they converged on the Art Institute, where Michelle Obama hosted dinner for NATO dignitaries. The mood was tense. Throughout the rest of the summit, protesters and police played cat and mouse games in the streets, but thankfully, the same level of violence did not occur.

On Monday, they marched on Boeing headquarters to highlight the corporation’s connection to the military industrial complex, and later held a press conference which turned into a dance party in front of President Obama’s campaign headquarters. In the evening, a few hundred marched through the loop to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, responsible for so many detentions and deportations.

 

What I witnessed on the streets of my city for nearly a week showed the dichotomy which exists between the state and those who want to change or completely oppose it. Activists who fight for change always face intimidation tactics. But the larger the organization, the harder the push back. Fighting city hall to keep a mental health clinic open or create an encampment in the park was difficult enough, but fighting a global war machine engendered a reaction the likes of which some people had never seen.

Still, activists persevered, adapted, and took care of each other. When I ran out of water, everyone from legal observers to masked anarchists were happy to share what little they had left. When various protesters faced targeted arrests, others stepped in to try to prevent them. Hundreds marched for miles to show solidarity at the jail the arrested were taken. Street medics took care of the injured and reminded the exhausted of the wellness center created for them. Independent journalists from all over the world banded together in solidarity, sharing information, looking after each other and supporting those who were targeted for surveillance or arrest by law enforcement. People who were relative strangers before they hit the streets together shared some of the longest and most caring hugs I have ever seen.

Photo by Paul Weiskel.

If it’s one thing I can take away from observing, writing about, and participating in the protests at the NATO summit, it’s that creating community will be what saves the world. Systems of alliances and mutual defense pacts continue the same “us versus them” Cold War mentality which has left the world littered with a class structure that no state can fix. But while the rich and powerful ate well and sat in comfortable air conditioning moving pawns across their chessboards, those in the streets forged friendships and shared struggles which created bonds that will outlast any empire.

-Aaron Cynic- 

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