NATO Blog: Thousands gather in Grant Park for rally, march
1:26 p.m. CDT, May 20, 2012
Thousands of people have gathered in Grant Park today for what is expected to be the largest demonstration during the NATO summit. The protesters will march to the lakeside convention center where President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders are tacklingAfghanistan’s future — from funding for security forces to upcoming elections.
Protesters say NATO outdated, unneeded 1:26 p.m.
Hundreds gathered in the shade at Grant Park’s anti-war rally, including Ronald Schopp, 60.
Clad in a skull mask and black hood to decry NATO’s military operations, Schupp — who described himself as one of the CAN-G8 organizers — said he was pleased with what he had heard so far.
“I think the foremost message has been peace and justice so far,” he said. “Putting an end to NATO. It’s an outdated alliance that is no longer needed. We have the U.N. and other alliances to deal with the world’s problems. We need to start spending money used for war for peaceful pursuits such as education, jobs, feeding the hungry…the list goes on and on.”
Schupp said he’s pleased with the way Chicago police have handled marches and demonstrations so far, and hoped things would not turn violent during this afternoon’s march.
“So far, I think that overall the police have been pretty restrained,” Schupp said. “Hopefully there’ll be no violence during the march and we can have our family friendly protest and go home.”
Matt Walberg, John Chase
Grant Park crowd swells to 4,000 1:23 p.m.
The anti-war protest crowd in Grant Park has swelled to about 4,000 people.
While many were listening to the speeches, thousands others hid under trees to get shade, spoke on their cellphones and played on their smart phones.
One man at the protest spent a half hour dancing like a robot, though no music was playing.
Hundreds more recorded the speeches, recorded themselves commenting on the speeches, or interviewed others just feet from the speakers.
Although most of the message was anti-war, others brought their own agendas, from increasing green jobs to gay rights to immigration rights and fighting against bank foreclosures.
Signs behind the stage included messages for “peace, jobs, equality” to freeing Bradley Manning, the private who leaked military records to WikiLeaks.
John Chase, Matt Walberg
Michelle Obama at Gary Comer Youth Center 1:05 p.m.
First lady Michelle Obama talks with participants in the Youth Urban Agriculture Program at the Gary Comer Youth Center on Chicago’s South Side while touring the center with Hayrunnisa Gul, right, the wife of Turkey’s president. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune)
Obama jokes about NATO fuss 12:53 p.m.
President Barack Obama today joked about the NATO summit coming to his hometown of Chicago.
“I’ve been asking: Why is everybody making such a big fuss? This isn’t as big as Taste of Chicago,” Obama said during a brief pooled press opportunity in his meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
says police ready for post-march activity 12:50 p.m.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy appears with police in Grant Park, where he talked about plans for the day’s NATO summit protests. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)
Chicago police are ready to offer some extra attention when today’s anti-war rally and demonstration end at 4 p.m., Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
“The vast majority of the folks here are compliant, they want to protest,” he said. “We expect some people will not be compliant, but 99 percent will. I think we’ll be able to handle it.”
McCarthy voiced his expectations for the day’s rallies while standing on the corner of Columbus Drive and Jackson Avenue. As he spoke, a number of protesters crowded behind him and tried to speak over his message.
Overall, McCarthy said, the weekend of protests has gone well, garnering fewer arrests than expected.
“Bottom line is what you’re seeing is exactly what we’ve been telling you you would see…officers facilitating peaceful protest, protecting people, providing public safety, while at the same time being intolerant of crimes being committed.”
McCarthy blamed Saturday night’s scuffle between police and activists on protesters from out of town — specifically New York.
He said an officer suffered a concussion while managing the crowd. And a protester who said he was injured was released from the hospital today.
“I feel very good about the way the officers have handled this incredible amount of stress,” he said.
Message of peace 12:47 p.m.
Japanese Buddhist monk Toyoshige Sekiguchi puts up a peace banner at the gates at McCormick Place on Sunday morning. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
NATO press lounge: Euro chic, Vegas night club 12:44 p.m.
The press lounge here looks a little Vegas night club, a little Euro chic. It has white modern couches and chairs, flat-screen TVs, and moody blue-and-white lighting.
It’s David Boul’s job to bring Chicago to this large cell block of a space. Boul is communications director for the Chicago NATO host committee and a former senior supervising producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“If you’re inside the convention center, we want you to still feel like you’re in Chicago,” Boul said. He pointed overhead to a long, narrow TV screen, airing video from a helicopter tour of Chicago mixed in with facts about the city’s business community. Those facts also appeared on silver metallic signs interspersed through the lounge.
Even the lamp shades on the buffet served as canvases for boosterism. They were imprinted with glowing quotes about the city from the likes of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the owner of the Bulgari retail empire.
“We’re not leaving any opportunity aside,” Boul said.
Although sophisticated, the space as of noon Sunday was rather empty. The first big news of the summit, out of a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is yet to come.
White House reporters have their own pen separate from the rest of the press corps, and summit participants are yet another step away from them.
The food seems to be keeping everyone content. Lunch Sunday was Lou Malnati’s pizza. Owner Marc Malnati was on hand to oversee the operation. Malnati’s donated the pizza.
I asked Malnati why he was personally handling the job.
“We’re giving pizza away to 1,300 journalists from all over the world,” Malnati said. “We want to show our best face. I want it to be great. And this isn’t something we typically do. We’re more about bringing it directly from the oven to your mouth. And to set up in McCormick Place, and try to serve this many people over a three-hour period is not necessarily in our wheelhouse.”
Boul said Malnati had twice been at the convention center scoping out the kitchen and then had to get all of the ingredients in before the Secret Service locked down the building.
Anti-war rally speaker defends ‘NATO 3′ 12:40 p.m.
With about 2,500 people gathered near the Petrillo Music Shell, rally speeches have begun.
One of the first to speak is Zoe Sigman, a member of Occupy Chicago, who said she lived in the Bridgeport apartment raided by Chicago police on Wednesday night.
Three people were charged with terrorism-related offenses after police said they were found with Molotov bomb-making materials.
Sigman said the raid was “illegal” and described the nine people originally arrested as “all my friends.”
“They’re people like you and me. People here to protest,” she said.
Sigman said the police had no warrant and that other raids have occurred this week. But a warrant was filed May 16, the day of the raid, according to court documents.
“I’m scared. I don’t have a safe place to stay at night because there is no safe place to stay at night,” she said. “They violated our privacy, they stole our security…I choose to fight back!”
She said the police were the ones being terrorists.
Many voices at Grant Park anti-war protest 12:36 p.m.
Protesters walk across Michigan Avenue on Jackson Street to Grant Park for the anti-war march and rally on Sunday. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)
Lillian Moats, 65, is a veteran of many a protest. This is her first NATO demonstration, however.
“I’m here with American Friends Service Committee, a peace and social justice organization grounded in Quaker principles,” said Moats, of Downers Grove, relaxing in a shady spot of grass near Jackson while she waited for the program to begin.
She said she is one of the muralists who helped create the group’s display of artwork commemorating Afghan civilians killed in the war.
“I think we’re seeing a lot of different concerns,” she said of the diverse crowd where black-clad self-described anarchists mingled with people dressed as clowns, all protesting particular injustices.
“I think that there’s just a great resonance with the Occupy movement, because if we weren’t spending such outrageous amounts on war, we have money for human needs. It seems like our country’s priorities are upside down.”
Moats said she wonders whether the wider world will be able to grasp a central theme to today’s protest given the multitude of issues demonstrators are protesting.
“I certainly hope it will be so, but I also know we live in a world where sound bites are important and so much of the message gets lost. It’s a complicated world and there is more to be written about this than one sentence. I do think there is a very basic correlation between military spending and the lack of funding for human needs, so I’m hopeful that will be the common theme that ties all the other messages together.”
McCarthy says ’99.9 percent’ of protesters cooperative 12:21 p.m.
As the anti-war rally in Grant Park began, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said “99.9” percent of the protesters have complied with police directions during demonstrations, and he predicted that would be the case again today.
“I think we’re going to be able to handle it pretty well,” McCarthy said at an availability at the corner of Columbus and Jackson.
Rally banners 12:19 p.m.
Banners lie in the grass in Grant Park near the Petrillo Music Shell prior to an anti-war protest on Sunday. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune)
Chicago making good first impression on visiting journalists 12:19 p.m.
Chicago appears to be making a good first impression on some of the visiting journalists who are reporting on the NATO summit for overseas audiences.
Here’s what they like so far: Swift and efficient security checks, frequent non-stop shuttle service between McCormick Place and the Hyatt Regency Chicago on East Wacker Drive, and the free food buffets featuring Chicago specialties, including mini beef sliders and Lou Malnati’s pizza.
“People are coming from different time zones and they are tired and to find (meals) here, it’s perfect,” said Ivica Puljic, a Washington, D.C. based journalist for Al Jazeera English TV whose reports air in such southeastern European countries as Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria. This is his fourth NATO summit, and he said it’s the best-run one he has attended.
As he was polishing off a miniature Chicago-style hotdog, he gave a thumbs-up to the quality of the food.
“For this kind of food, it’s very good,” he said.
Dori Toribio, a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for National Public RadioSpain, said she was surprised by the wide-open feel of the city and the lakefront.
“I imagined it to be all skyscrapers and skyline and huge buildings,” she said. “But the streets are wide and the lake is huge. There’s a sense of breathing.”
Chicago NATO summit organizers are hoping visiting journalists will write positive stories about the city, as well as report on the summit and the protests.
Toribio said that’s not too likely for her, unless she can find an angle related to Spain.
“That’s what I can sell to my bosses in Spain,” she said.
But Puljic plans to file a feature story about the city on Tuesday, focusing on its universities, its arts and its business core.
“People can recognize, in that part of Europe, of course Al Capone and that kind of stuff,” he said. “But they don’t know how big the lake is, how beautiful. I’ll compare it to the Mediterranean.
Thousands gather in Grant Park for CAN-G8 Anti-War rally 12:04 p.m.
(Matthew Walberg, Chicago Tribune)
Thousands have gathered for speeches and protests in Grant Park for the CAN-G8 Anti-War rally.
Blessing of the protesters 12:02 p.m.
A small gathering of NATO protesters are blessed and offered communion before their afternoon march by Pastor Wendy Witt, left, outside the First United Methodist Church, Chicago Temple, at Clark Street and Washington on Sunday. (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune)
Protesters gather near Petrillo Music Shell ahead of march 11:58 a.m.
“Captain America,” right, paints the face of “Scrappy Doo,” as protesters prepare for an anti-war march and rally today. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune)
At the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park, anti-war activists milled around as they waited for the music and speeches to start.
Dozens retreated to the shaded areas under trees west of the stage. But about 400 crowded in close to the stage waving anti-war and anti-NATO signs and banners.
At one point, a small group of activists staged an impromptu march through the park before settling in the grass. A number of the demonstrators came to the event wearing costumes or signs.
Others relied on their T-shirts and stickers on their clothes to communicate their purpose for showing up on Sunday.
Charlotte police wait on CTA buses 11:53 a.m.
Near Madison and Michigan Avenue, two CTA buses sat parked, packed with police from Charlotte-Mecklenburg County wearing riot gear.
On the LED screens at the front and rear that usually display the bus route flashed the words “CHICAGO IS MY KIND OF TOWN.”
Feds, CPD probe cyber attack against city web sites 11:50 a.m.
A browser’s answer to a query for the City of Chicago website.
Hackers are claiming credit for bringing down the cityofchicago.org site and the chicagopolice.org site, according to Twitter feeds this morning.
A group using the name antis3curityops sent out a message on Twitter at 6:17 a.m. directing people to “fire” on chicagopolice.org and chicagoseargeants.org. As of 11:40 a.m. only chicagopolice.org appeared to be unresponsive.
A Twitter user who claims affiliation with Anonymous, an international hacker community, tweeted a little later “Tango Down,” with a link to cityofchicago.org — shorthand used on the Internet to indicate a site has been hacked or targeted. That site was also unresponsive as of noon.
Police and city officials say they are investigating.
Protesters complain about Saturday night police treatment 11:33 a.m.
NATO protesters march north on Michigan Avenue near Adams, after breaking through an area cordoned off by Chicago police on Saturday night. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)
Anti-NATO activist organizers and protesters today criticized the Chicago Police Department and city leaders for the treatment of demonstrators Saturday night.
Chris Geovanis of the Chicago and New Media Collective said protesters were injured by police who tried to block their movement and interfere with the march, said Chris Geovanis
“We condemn the police violence yesterday,” she said at a news conference held just moments before music was scheduled to start at the Grant Park rally. “This violence won’t stand.
“It is a disgrace, a disgrace that the authorities here…think it’s OK to pony up taxpayer’s dollars to bankroll this war-monger gathering,” Geovanis said.
Natalie Wahlberg said she was one of the hundreds of protesters who marched in the streets Saturday night against the NATO summit and agenda. She said that she was hurt when a Chicago Police officer in a bicycle barricade reared up his bike against her. She also said she jumped on top of a moving police van that she said was threatening the crowd.
“I was on the hood of the van trying to hold it back,” she said. “I felt the acceleration of the engine as it roared through the crowd.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared at the news conference and said the demonstrations must remain non-violent if they are to be successful.
“We learned from Dr. King in Birmingham,” Jackson said. “We march in a disciplined, non-violent way. We cannot afford to have our message hijacked by acts of provocation.”
Jackson did not indicate whether he thought the provocation was on the part of protesters or police.
Jackson said he planned to speak at the rally to encourage demonstrators who are using this platform to highlight numerous social problems. He said leaders need to address foreclosures, rising joblessness, poverty, homelessness and violence in America.
“It’s time to reinvest in America,” he said, mentioning that Dr. King’s last mission before he was killed was to fight poverty. “We cannot afford war expansion.”
At several points, the news conference became chaotic, as different protesters attempted to speak over the leaders. One man said he is a homeless veteran and that’s what brought him to the Occupy movement. Another man yelled that he is concerned about the environment.
Protester charged with hitting cop during Loop marches 11:33 a.m.
Taylor Hall (Police photo)
One of the people arrested during Saturday night’s protests in the Loop has been charged with striking a police officer.
Taylor Hall, 23, of Wilkinsburg, Pa., is charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer and resisting or obstructing a peace officer. He was to appear in bond court today.
No information was immediately available about the circumstances that led to his arrest. At least 6 people were arrested during hours of marches that snaked through the Loop on Saturday.
There were repeated scrums with police whenever the front of the roughly 1,000-strong crowd tried to push past police, who kept them circling in the general vicinity of the Loop for hours. Some of the clashes resulted in arrests and detentions, but Police SuperintendentGarry McCarthy said there were only about half a dozen arrests.
The crowd remained largely peaceful and there were no reports of major damage.
Rooftop tour 11:28 a.m.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, tour the rooftop garden at City Hallon Sunday morning. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune)
Giant hall to house 2,000 journalists for NATO coverage 11:21 a.m.
Franco Venturini, an Italian journalist with Corriere della Sera, works in the press area at McCormick Place on Friday. (Keri Wiginton, Chicago Tribune)
McCormick Place’s cavernous North Hall, normally packed with exhibits for conventions such as the National Restaurant Association show, has been filled with rows of long tables to house the more than 2,000 credentialed journalists in town to cover the summit.
There isn’t a lot of news breaking as the meetings get underway, but organizers are making sure reporters stay well-fed. That’s probably a good plan, considering journalists are not allowed to leave the confines of the hall.
Local roasterie Metropolis Coffee Co. is supplying the caffeine, while PepsiCo Inc. - listed as a NATO 2012 donor – has outfitted refrigerators of soft drinks and bottled water. Its Chicago-based Quaker Oats division also has plenty of snacks represented in the smorgasbord available to reporters in a separate lounge area, which is dotted with signs displaying Chicago trivia.
The factoids talk about the city’s myriad ethnic groups, its heritage as the birthplace of blues music and its homegrown startup companies: CareerBuilder, Orbitz and Groupon.
There are still a lot of empty seats in the press room, but the mood seems to be anticipatory — whether that’s for the day’s breaking news or lunch is hard to tell.
NATO journo good bags full of local treasures 11:18 a.m.
Visiting journalists arriving at McCormick Place to cover the NATO summit on Sunday morning are getting a taste of Chicago as greeters present canvas tote bags filled with goodies to appeal to both plebian and high-brow palates.
The swag includes a hefty bag of Garrett popcorn (the Chicago mix of caramel and cheese), a sack of Fisher trail mix, a ribbon-wrapped box containing two Vosges chocolate truffles (in fancy flavors such as blood orange with hibiscus), three mini Milky Way candies, a Quaker yogurt granola bar and a small packet of Orbit Bubblemint gum.
In a plain white envelope, marked “An Invitation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” is an invitation to a press corp bowling, billiards and blues party Monday evening at Lucky Strike Lanes on East Illinois Street.
A Chicago tourist guide, a World Business Chicago brochure on the city’s business attributes and the NATO Review also are tucked into the bag, along with a red writing pad, decorated with a free-form map, a bike map and four lapel buttons. One of the buttons has a a Chicago map and another has an image of a CTA rail car and the slogan, “Ridin’ the el.”
The Chicago NATO summit host committee also included a schedule of talks for media by some of the city’s best-known purveyors of food and drink, as well as by those who offer cultural and entertainment offerings to visitors. Among the presenting organizations are Hoosier Mama Pie Co., the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Goose Island Beer, and Urbanbelly & Belly Shack Restaurants.
Medals to be returned 11:03 a.m.
Iraq War veteram Greg Broseus lines up at the Petrillo Music Shell with others who will return medals today. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)
Obama heads to McCormick Place 10:53 a.m.
President Barack Obama’s motorcade left the Sheraton at 10:18 a.m. en route McCormick Place, the site of the NATO summit. He arrived at 10:32 a..m
Grant Park crowd at 2,000 10:51 a.m.
Chicago police estimate that there already are 2,000 people gathered for the anti-war march that will start in Grant Park.
McCormick streets quiet, fortified 10:46 a.m.
It’s quiet at this hour on the streets around McCormick Place, with a visible police presence on streets largely devoid of cars.
At the intersection of Michigan and Cermak — the destination of today’s main protest march — a stage has been wheeled into place near the southeast corner of the intersection.
Meanwhile, the barrier around the summit site has gone up, with a series of concrete barriers on Cermak east of Michigan preventing cars from going that direction.
The barriers are in rows parallel with the street, making for a more formidable blockage for vehicles.
About a block closer to McCormick, black anti-scale fencing can be seen stretched across Cermak. Some businesses and residential buildings on Michigan approaching the area have their windows freshly boarded up.
An Office of Emergency Management and Communications SUV sits in the median on Cermak just west of Michigan, and helicopters can periodically be heard sweeping overhead.
- NATO Blog: The stage is set for summit, protests – chicagotribune.com (mbcalyn.com)
- NATO show begins today with summit, protests – Chicago Sun-Times (mbcalyn.com)
- NATO Blog: Some protesters detained as evening march snakes through Loop – chicagotribune.com (faktensucher.wordpress.com)
- Protesters gather for largest NATO demonstration (miamiherald.com)
- Chicago turmoil for NATO demonstration (wnd.com)
- One arrested as NATO protesters disperse downtown – Chicago Sun-Times (mbcalyn.com)
- Protesters gather for largest NATO demonstration (miamiherald.com)
- Protesters Prepare for Larger NATO Demonstration (kstp.com)
- Protesters gather ahead of largest anti-NATO rally (cbc.ca)
- Man faces terrorism charges in Molotov cocktail plot – chicagotribune.com (mbcalyn.com)