Occupy Chicago and other social justice groups have developed a coalition-built People’s Summit that will be held in the city the week before the May 19-21 NATO meeting. The summit is organized to educate the public about the NATO and Group of Eight (G8) summits, develop workshops for actions of dissent for the weekend and mobilize a mass march and rally on May 19.
“The People’s Summit is an opportunity to participate in education, democracy and debate that is missing from our political system and from NATO,” said Coalition Against NATO/G8 (CANG8) spokesperson Jesse McAdoo. “… While NATO meets behind closed doors, surrounded by riot police, the People’s Summit will be open to everyone.” The groups have received clearance from the city and the U.S. Secret Service to march from the Petrillo Band Shell to McCormick Place Convention Center, where most of the NATO summit will take place, according to a May 10 Progress Illinois article. The march will specifically focus on the military alliance’s involvement in the Afghanistan War and will call for a full military withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan.
In a Chicago Sun Times article on May 11, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) spokesman Aaron Hughes cited the tragic effects the wars are having on American men and women as one reason why the wars should end.
“Every day, 18 veterans commit suicide,” he said. “Seventeen percent of service members in Afghanistan are on psychotropic medication; 20 to 50 percent of service members are diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or military sexual trauma. ... The military is in a mental health crisis right now.”
The People's Summit will follow the 38th G8 summit, which will be held at Camp David simultaneously with NATO. The G8, leaders from eight of the world's largest economies, had initially planned to meet in Chicago.
The summit was moved to the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland after activists announced plans to protest both events. The summit will bring together a range of disparate groups and engage them in discussions about social justice issues like education funding, immigrant detention, foreclosures, the environment, corporate taxes and other issues pertaining to growing economic inequality.
"The People’s Summit is an opportunity to participate in education, democracy and debate that is missing from our political system and from NATO." - Jesse McAdoo, Coalition Against NATO/G8 Among the organizing groups are Occupy Chicago, The People’s Summit, National Nurses United (NNU), IVAW, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Chicago Against NATO and the G8, The Mental Health Movement and others.
Leaders from left-wing coalitions, military veterans, peace campaigners and entertainers met on May 10 at Occupy Chicago’s East Pilsen headquarters to introduce themselves and explain the issues they will be fighting for during the summit, according to the Sun Times.
“The NATO alliance, born of the cold war and supposedly defensive, has now turned offensive, aggressive and interventionist, and that is bad for Chicago," AFSC spokesman Michael McConnell said on May 11 in the Chicago Sun Times. "It’s bad for business, and it’s bad for our communities. Downtown office workers – don’t be afraid of the protesters. Be afraid, very afraid, of the NATO alliance coming here.”
The 99 percent will take to the streets to resist the city’s attempts to intimidate civilians from exercising their First Amendment rights and will engage in a dialogue about pressing political issues while simultaneously battling the City of Chicago because of the illegality of their demonstrations.
“This mayor has shown himself to be very hostile to free speech,” said CANG8 spokesman Andy Thayer told the Sun Times. “… But the last time I checked, the First Amendment had not been annulled in the City of Chicago. … Don’t let the City of Chicago intimidate you from exercising your First Amendment rights.”
Occupy Chicago member Zoe Sigman estimates that anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 demonstrators will participate in the summit and the march, according to Progress Illinois.
“NATO is a symptom of the global system of violence and oppression of the global 1 percent ,” she said in a May 10 press conference. “... NATO receives millions of our tax dollars, money that is desperately needed to help our rapidly deteriorating social programs.”
Occupy Chicago is also organizing a protest aimed at military contractor Boeing Co., which receives massive tax cuts from the City of Chicago. The protest will bring together a range of groups concerned about tax money being spent for the military and weapons, while social needs such as education and health care are devastated. "They should be afraid, but not of people standing up. They should be afraid of NATO, and they should be afraid of the way that they are outfitting the police in this city." - Micah Philbrook, Occupy Chicago press committee
"Boeing is a corporate war criminal that profits off violence on a massive scale," Sigman told the Tribune. "They're receiving huge tax cuts from the city of Chicago while they're making money off of death and war."
Two weeks ahead of public action, the company erected a 12-foot fence around its property perimeter on May 6, which Boeing spokesman John Dern says was purely coincidental, according to Occupy Chicago.
"We're proud to do our part to support the men and women of our military who are protecting our country,” Dern said in response to the protesters’ accusations.
Micah Philbrook of the Occupy Chicago press committee discussed the city’s fear regarding potential violence during the summit.
“They should be afraid, but not of people standing up,” he said. “They should be afraid of NATO, and they should be afraid of the way that they are outfitting the police in this city.
"They should be afraid of the future of our entire globe if organizations like NATO, the G8 and other organizations that have been brought up, the WTO, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) … are directing the policies in the future of our world with no oversight from the people who they are directing.
"It’s completely anti-democratic. And if people don’t stand up now, sooner or later, it will become too late to stand up.”
Diana Petrova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.