NATO Chicago is a tale of two cities – Chicago Sun-Times


NATO Chicago is a tale of two cities

RICHARD ROEPER rroeper@suntimes.com May 20, 2012 2:06PM

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At times this weekend, Chicago looked like a scene from “The Walking Dead.”

Updated: May 21, 2012 3:18PM

I’m walking down Dearborn Street in River North on Sunday.

Not the sidewalk. The street.

Traffic closures have rendered Dearborn as eerily empty as a zombie-free street in “The Walking Dead.”

Meanwhile, other pockets of the city have jammed tight with humanity over the weekend — thousands of Occupiers, hundreds upon hundreds of police, nearly as many media.

Such was the dual personality of downtown Chicago in one of the strangest weekends I’ve ever seen. Escalating protests, major traffic shutdowns leading to ghost-town square blocks, some folks just going about their weekend business as if nothing unusual was happening, Sox and Cubs squaring off at Wrigley Field …

And even though there’s a lot of Summit left to be played, I can’t help but ask: Tell me again why this was going to be so great for Chicago?

Two sides to every story

Even with so many professional and amateur camera operators capturing so many angles of the protests, you’re still going to get “Rashomon” versions of confrontations.

Occupiers say a police van deliberately ran over a protester in the South Loop on Saturday; police say protesters tried to push the van and block it from moving through traffic. And Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Sunday that the driver of the police van suffered a concussion.

Occupiers will tell you some cops are intimidating, bullying, beating. Police will tell you some Occupiers are taunting them and instigating physical confrontations, and they’re just trying to control the situation. There’s footage to bear out both arguments.

Things got ugly Sunday afternoon when protesters and police clashed at Michigan and Cermak. News crews and amateur videographers captured footage and images of cops clubbing protesters, and protesters throwing metal barricades and other objects at police. Some protesters were bloodied. Arrests were made. There was a massive shoving match pitting uniformed cops vs. the most stubborn of the protesters.

If you’re a masked protester, and you’re screaming obscenities in the face of a police officer or throwing something at him, how does that advance whatever cause you’re advocating? How does that help you get your message to NATO? Did you come to Chicago to mix it up with the cops or try to change the world?

The biggest story: the “NATO 3” arrested on terrorism charges.

Friends and defenders of those charged said it was a joke — these guys weren’t making Molotov cocktails, they were making beer. An attorney representing the men said his clients are victims of “a Chicago police set-up, entrapment to the highest degree.” But police said the suspects warned “Chicago doesn’t know what it’s in for.” The police raid yielded written plans for making pipe bombs, a mortar gun, swords, a crossbow, ninja knives.

Interesting craft beer technique.

Rules of engagement

On Saturday, protesters congregated outside Rahm Emanuel’s house.

This isn’t the first time activists have marched past or gathered outside the mayor’s home. Regardless of the cause, I think protesting at someone’s house, especially if the resident has children, is a punk move.

On the silly side, there was the protest against Rush Limbaugh last week outside the WLS-AM studios. From 4-6 p.m., protesters waved signs with messages like, “Rush Must Go,” while a mike-checking activist told us he “hates” Limbaugh and called him a piece of “s—” who must be fired. Kind of a mixed message there if you’re going for, you know, tolerance and free speech for all.

Also, Limbaugh doesn’t broadcast his show from Chicago. He’s a thousand miles away. Not to mention he’s on the air from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. From 2-6 p.m., it’s Roe Conn and me. Different show.

Utterly pointless protest.

 NATO Chicago is a tale of two cities – Chicago Sun-Times.

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