Chicago: Peace Town
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. 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.
David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.