Violent NATO Protests
Several Phoenix-Area Protesters Who Travelled To Chicago For The NATO Summit Recount Violent, Bloody Actions By Police
The Illinois State Police were ready for battle on the streets of Chicago last weekend. Images by Bartosz Brezinski and Lorri37 and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
By Jeff Moses
Special for Modern Times Magazine
May 22, 2012 — A slew of Phoenix-based activists that traveled to Chicago to take part in protests aimed at the NATO Summit last weekend found themselves in the middle of violent clashes with police that activists said represented a new low for intimidation, depravity and suppression of the first amendment.
“Cops did not use tear gas or pepper spray as far as I know, but instead were beating people’s heads in,” said Justine Rigby of Phoenix. “Now they are beating people bloody on TV, it’s weird.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an intergovernmental organization of 28 nations that have signed on to the cold war-inspired North Atlantic Treaty, attracted what police claim was approximately 2,500 activists. Occupy Chicago, one of the main organizers for the protests, claim the number of attendees was around 5,000.
The prevailing causes espoused by the activists were an end to war — especially the continuance of the 10-year struggle in Afghanistan — and changes to economic and political systems that only serve the needs and desires of the rich and powerful.
The saga of the Chicago summit began in March when the G8 was moved from the windy city to Camp David because organizers were fearful of bringing the heads of the eight biggest economies in the world into the activist filled streets of Chicago. The decision to move the G8 meeting came about a week after the first fliers calling for the mobilization of anarchists and radicals toward Chicago made their way to Phoenix.
After the decision to move the G8, Chicago refused to change protest permits acquired by liberal activist groups to coincide with the NATO summit. One such group denied a permit was National Nurses United, who even without their permit pushed on to bring bus loads of activists from all over the country to Chicago for free. The nurses were eventually given a permit.
In the months leading up to the summit, rumors swirled that the Chicago police force was preparing for battle.
“I remember hearing in March that Chicago got an LRAD (long range acoustic device),” said Kyle Pacheco. “The news was saying that Chicago spent like a million dollars on training and equipment for NATO.”
Besides beefing up the beat cops, Chicago police and federal agents deployed undercover officers and federal agents to infiltrate and take on some “terrorist” groups. The National Lawyers Guild released a statement Monday claiming that two “informants” led to nine pre-protest arrests akin to the Cleveland bridge investigation a few weeks ago.
“Investigations by the NLG have uncovered infiltration by law enforcement in each of the five terrorism-related cases charged so far. The NLG believes that at least two undercover police or confidential informants, "Gloves" and "Mo," were used in a law enforcement operation that resulted in nine arrests from a Wednesday house raid in Bridgeport as well as two additional arrests on Thursday. Gloves and Mo were apparently arrested with the nine protesters from the house raid, but were released soon after,” according to the statement.
Twenty people were arrested before the summit and all but three were released without charges in what activists are calling a blatant attempt by Chicago police to intimidate protesters. In one raid, Chicago police entered a house and searched without a signed search warrant, according to a press release from Occupy Chicago. The NLG also denounced these actions and said they will be representing the accused: Bryan Church, Jared Chase and Brent Beterly.
When the protests began, however, police tactics slipped from intimidation to direct violence. Batons were used liberally, and according to several eyewitness reports, the violence was not solely directed at those breaking the law, but everyone in sight. According to an Occupy Chicago press release, Chicago police officers were seen using their nightsticks to beat activists who stood too close to the security perimeter.
The video at the top of this page is of a police officer driving a van into the middle of a large crowd of people at around 10 p.m. Saturday night. One man was injured and taken to a hospital. Former Occupy Phoenix activist Patrick North was an eyewitness to this event and said he felt very lucky to avoid the police vehicle.
OPHX activist Ezra Kaplan said he had his wrist broken by a police officer’s baton while serving as a medic. Over the course of the NATO summit and the resulting protests, more than 60 people were arrested and 12 were sent to the emergency room after beatings from Chicago Police.
Jeff Moses is a freelance writer and photographer from Teaneck, N.J., currently living in Mesa, Ariz. He has been published in The Mesa Legend, OccupyUprising.org and The Highway Herald. Contact him by calling 727-385-0624.
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