|Photo by examiner.com|
In downtown Chicago close to 2 000 demonstrators have gathered in Daley Center, right outside the Cook County Courthouse in the heart of Chicago’s financial district. While the protesters here vary from union workers to occupy Wall Street activists, they all share one purpose – “exercising your First Amendment rights”.
Over the past few days Chicago law enforcement has been noticeably preparing the city to withstand what is expected to be the largest demonstration here in decades. Secret Service vehicles line practically each block of the city and the Chicago Police Department puts up steal barricades surrounding much McCormick place where 2012 NATO Summit is set to take place on Sunday and Monday.
The threat of massive protest has led some local businesses, such as the Best Western Grand Park Hotel to even board up their windows. The protesters who were multiplying rapidly as the NATO Summit approaches say the fear wasn’t brought on by the protesters but rather by the city’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“It is consorted effort by the Chicago Police Department and the Mayor of Chicago and his Administration combined with the mainstream media to try to discourage people from exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and assembly. It is outrageous!”
“They want to make us look like we are the monsters who are to destroy the city, to destroy the police, we are militarized… But that’s the fear factor. They want to make us scary to turn against us. That what this all is set up for.”
To suggest how scary the protests here in the windy city are, is just a seven year old Dillon who came to Friday’s rally with his father and his brother.
- What do you think about this?
- It’s hard to say. I think it is good that they are protesting.
Perhaps the only scary things at Friday’s rally were some of the costumes that a few protesters were wearing. Several demonstrators dressed up as vampires and other fictional monsters symbolizing the 1% bloodsuckers. But even then Dillon wasn’t startled one bit.
- I think they are cool! I like them!
Dillon’s father Brian, a Chicago native, thought it was important for his children to see what protesting peacefully was all about.
- You should teach your children values to speak for what they believe in. They know my values, will form their own but this is a good place for them to learn.
But other protesters didn’t keep their cool as well as Brian. For many NATO’s presence in Chicago drew boiled blood by the going.
“I’m outraged by the fact that there was no democratic participation in the decision of bringing NATO to this city. It was made by the elite leaders of Chicago and Washington with absolutely no impact from citizens affected by these people. In Chicago today we are gaining a taste of what it means to be occupied by a military occupation. We are gaining a small taste of what the people of Bagdad and Kabul, and Jerusalem have to face every day – occupation by a foreign military.”
Currently Chicago is something of a ghost town, apart from the police presence and the thousands of protesters packed in Daley Center, traffic in the city is practically nonexistent and numerous businesses have closed for the weekend. Just how much money will be lost from the economical impact that the NATO Summit will impose is still unknown, as is the total cost of all the heightened security throughout the city. While protests have remained mostly peaceful, there have been at least a dozen arrests so far, and NATO hasn’t even arrived yet. And when they do the protesters will march.
Protesters plan to rally on Saturday through the city and on Sunday they have a permit to march through Chicago. And they will most likely march in the thousands but the police will be waiting.
Vasily Sushko is the author and presenter at the Voice of Russia, Russia's first internationally broadcasted Radio. On air since 1929.
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