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Swanson writes: "A huge crowd gathered for several hours and marched for over two miles in the hot sun to oppose NATO and U.S. wars on Sunday in Chicago."

Demonstrators flash the peace sign during an anti-NATO protest march in Chicago, 05/20/12. (photo: Reuters)
Demonstrators flash the peace sign during an anti-NATO protest march in Chicago, 05/20/12. (photo: Reuters)

Chicago: Peace Town

By David Swanson, Reader Supported News

21 May 12


huge crowd gathered for several hours and marched for over two miles in the hot sun to oppose NATO and U.S. wars on Sunday in Chicago. Finishing the march outside the NATO meeting, numerous U.S. veterans of current wars denounced their previous "service" and threw their medals over the fence, a scene not witnessed since the U.S. war on Vietnam.

This event, with massive turnout and tremendous energy, saw the participation of numerous groups from Chicago and the surrounding area, including students, teachers, and activists on a variety of issues, as well as anti-war activists and Occupiers from around the country and the world. No one can have been disappointed with the turnout, but it might have been bigger if not for the fear that was spread prior to Sunday. In the face of that fear, Sunday's action was remarkable.

The fear was the result of a massive militarized police build up, rumors of evacuations, the boarding up of windows, brutal police assaults on activists, preemptive arrests, disappearances, and charges of terrorism. A segment of the activist world plays into these police tactics, wearing bandanas, shouting curses, antagonizing police, and eroding credibility for claims that violence is all police-initiated.

Yet the vast majority of the crowd was disciplined, nonviolent, and effective. It is critical that the people of Afghanistan know the people of the U.S. oppose what NATO is doing to them. Speaking at the end of the march were members of Afghans for Peace, who read a message from Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

It is also vital that the people of Russia know that we do not want to make their nation our enemy; only our government and our weapons makers do. And it is important that those who have been actively opposing NATO in Europe for years see that we in the nation that provides the bulk of NATO's forces are waking up to what that entails.

Americans cannot help but know more about NATO this week than they did a week ago. We've even received a small taste of the violence that NATO imposes on others -- courtesy of the Chicago police and various imported state, city, and federal police/soldiers. For NATO to meet in Chicago it was deemed necessary to import a few night raids and a great deal of brutality.

A massive crowd of activists was significantly outnumbered on Sunday by armed police, many in riot gear. They lined the march route. They swarmed off buses. They looked a little ridiculous as we marched nonviolently, just as we'd intended to do. The marching didn't harm anyone or destroy any accumulated riches or smash any of the windows that were not boarded up.

Police did not allow the day to end without any use of their training and weapons. Not long after I left, according to numerous reports, all hell broke loose. If it hadn't, think of how many of those people fearfully watching Sunday's march from their high balconies would have joined in the next one and invited their friends!

Am I suggesting that government officials try to manipulate public opinion? Well, let me just say this: there is a bipartisan effort in Congress to lift the official ban on using dishonest propaganda against U.S. citizens. The measure passed the House on Friday as part of the latest National "Defense" Authorization Act.

On Monday, Occupy Chicago will take the protest to Boeing:

"Occupy Celebrates Victory of Non-Violent Direct Action with March to Boeing, All-Day Rally: People Power Stops the War Machine as Boeing Corporation Directs Employees to Stay Home, Shuts Down!"

My kind of town. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

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Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+21 # paulrevere 2012-05-21 14:23
The idea that war is as necessary to human events and society as clean water, viable infrastructure and Macy's is repugnant to the extreme.

I remain dumbstruck by how powerful that meme is in light of all the information we now have illuminating the overt, covert, sociopathic, cynical, propagandized, redacted, 1984'd society twisting events world wide along with their public operators and operations.

Audacity like all that WILL lead to a major crumbling for systemic corruption can do nothing but corrode the very structures upon which it depends.

Another definition of insanity...shoo t your own feet off Mr Plutocracy.
+23 # neohip 2012-05-21 14:29
All last week the police drag presence in Chicago has been overkill. This must have cost the city quite a lot of money. Nice to know the city is doing so well it can afford this embarrassing excess. And Mayor Emmanuel, talk about a Napoleonic complex! Never has he seemed so little. Time for us to openly admit that a fascist police state is in full service to the elites. This will work until the tipping point is reached, as always comes, when the decision is protect the elites or join with your family against a common enemy. Patience and perseverance my fellow oppressed Americans. "Save your American money for the Middle-class will rise again!"
+4 # fdawei 2012-05-21 21:31
We must remember that Rahm's last name Emmanuel means "God is with us." Perhaps then that's why he thinks he has the God-given right to call the goon squad to torment, beat and recklessly use the millions of dollars to pay those monsters rather than using the funds to better the education, healthcare, food and support to his constituents who voted him in.
+21 # MidwestTom 2012-05-21 14:33
Occupy apparently must get much larger before it even gets good television coverage. I watched the news on WGN last night expecting to see overview shots of the crowd, and all they broadcast was closeups and talk about the arrests They showed the veterans throwing away their metals, and interviewed the chief od police. CNN on the web did not even have video footage, just still pictures. Mass media is not going to advance the cause.
+5 # rollinshultz 2012-05-21 15:05
I am surprised even when they give honest news a passing mention. Thanks for exposing what you have seen on your local news.

BTW, the veterans were throwing away their "Medals" which are usually made of metal. Not picking on you just thought you might like to know. I enlisted in the 70s feeling it was my duty and indeed I do think everyone should serve at least two years in some capacity to be eligible to vote. I am tired of armchair warriors being so glad to send our troops to expand the petro-dollar empire when they have never served themselves. I don't think they should vote for these pro war candidates w/o consequences.
+28 # Guy 2012-05-21 14:48
"A segment of the activist world plays into these police tactics, wearing bandanas, shouting curses, antagonizing police, and eroding credibility for claims that violence is all police-initiated."

Let's not forget that the infiltration of the police into protestor's march is in fact to do just that.
+10 # walt 2012-05-21 15:18
Good for all who marched for an end to our occupation of Afghanistan. I refuse to call it a war since we are there interfering and nation-building once again.

We spend $2 billion per week for this occupation at a time that our own country's infrastructure is in shambles. Yet Obama seems led by the military-indust rial complex despite pledging us "change we can believe in."

The response of the police is another national shame in the "land of the free" and the "home of the brave" with their helmets, guns, and riot gear to act against a peaceful demonstration.

Doesn't our country look bad to the rest of the world!
+1 # cordleycoit 2012-05-21 17:31
There is a big problem in Chicago.It appears to be a city that projectile vomits on people's Civil Rights.That is because the City is held hostage by the Emmanuel political machine a psychopathic conspiracy to rule the people by force and violence. Sick men leading sick men who follow orders. Where do the orders come from racist Israel, the banks board room? Ask the Mayor: oh he's a secret agent supposedly retired. Or is he a nut case?
+7 # Vegan_Girl 2012-05-21 18:24
Mr. David Swanson,

I was there. I wasn't beaten but I was very scared and still feel traumatized. All day long today I felt sad and thought there is no hope for us in the US.

I want to thank you for your article, it put things in perspective for me. Tomorrow is a new day, we'll fight on for peace and prosperity.
+6 # Elusive Pimpernel 2012-05-21 19:43
Vegan Girl, It was always my greatest hope and wish that while people sit idly and complacent at home watching stupid TV and canned government news, that at the very core of our struggle for freedom, the "boots" on the ground would be our hope for the future. It saddens me to read your comment that you feel there is "no hop for us in the US".

If those on the ground lose hope, we are defeated! Its bad enough there is a high level of complacency by the majority of the public, but to have loss of hope by an activist is exactly what the elitist powers hope for.

I hope you are but an isolated person who allowed this event to get the best of her. I also hope you will reemerge with more zeal and hope as you fight in our behalf.
+6 # Majikman 2012-05-21 20:18
Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now" had a full hour of coverage. The AVAW (Irag Vets Against the War) were awesome and inspiring (made me want to drag my ancient ass to march with them).
I fired my cable & satellite provider a long time ago as being worthless, and dangerous, sources of news or entertainment. I get the worthwhile news programs, and lefty talk radio, online and rent whatever few movies are worth watching. I am far better informed than my solely TV watching pals.
+5 # Peacedragon 2012-05-21 20:25
I hope that we can keep to nonviolence. Any reports of violence from our side will be used against us.
+7 # Peace Anonymous 2012-05-21 20:56
It is May and still a long way to November. In a country where there are billions of dollars available for weapons and little for schools we are beginning to look more and more like the typical Third World dictatorship our government has supported for decades. The kind that owns the military, police, and the media. And they run it all in their best interests and on your dime. That thought process has come full circle and is now making its presence felt here at home. Look at America, the land of the free, is this the country you want? If not who is responsible for changing it?
+5 # Deboldt 2012-05-22 03:29
Blessed be the warrior who turns against the war.
+2 # Deboldt 2012-05-22 03:29
My Kind of Town?

Shortly after Obama won the election he spoke at a rally in Grant Park, Chicago. After watching the event on TV, I wrote an essay entitled, “Chicago—the city where hope died and was reborn.”

Last Sunday nearly fifty veterans of our brutal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan threw away their medals in protest against the Chicago NATO meeting. By now the message has become amply clear, Obama never represented “a change we can believe in,” but only a continued suppression of our rights and a wasting of our wealth in pursuit of a brutal American imperialism.

I was in Chicago in 1968 at the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. The NATO demonstrations were deja-vu all over again with police cracking heads with as much gusto as ’68. It is sad that this time the press seemed complicit with the police. (On CBS I never saw more than 50 demonstrators.) Streaming videos posted by the protesters served as a check on police, their violence against and entrapment of non-violent demonstrators.

Resistance is the last vestige of hope for change in our country. I wish the protests even tough I suspect the outcome will not favor democracy. I also wish it were as effective for me to take back my past words and actions (in support of Obama) as it is to corageously repudiate violence by returning medals given to honor those actions.
0 # jazzman633 2012-05-25 10:11
I too was in Chicago in '68, and must agree 100% with Deboldt: it's deja vu all over again. I had hoped against hope that politico/milita ry/police complex might have thought it a good idea not to start the violence, especially since cell phones allow even more extensive and vivid portrayal of police misconduct than in the '68 horror show, when "the whole world was watching." But no. They're gonna show those hippies who really runs this country.

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