The recent NATO summit in Chicago saw levels of anti-NATO protest unprecedented in the US. Around 15,000 people joined the march, including trade unions and the Occupy movement which have now embraced this issue – building on core opposition from the peace movement. CND Chair Dave Webbwas in Chicago for the protests and reports below, including a plea for balance in media reporting.
“The 2 mile or so long march through the city went off without any problems. As we approached the final stages the police presence seemed much more aggressive – large, solidly built cops standing together with thick wooden batons. There were many thousands of riot police in the city, not only from Chicago but from Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Charlotte, North Carolina. There was also a small (200 or so?) contingent of the aggressive looking “black bloc”.
The “Veterans for Peace” group were at the front of the march and at the end of the march the rally included speeches from 45 ex-servicemen and women who were now working for peace and to bring the troops home. Each one gave an incredibly moving speech about their experiences and how they became disillusioned with the system which they once believed in. At the end of their speeches they threw their medals in the direction of McCormick Place where the NATO leaders were meeting behind heavily guarded and locked doors. The veterans had asked that the NATO representative formally accept them but that did not happen.
“I’m one of 40,000 people that left the United States Armed Forces because this is a lie,” said one veteran.
“I will not continue to trade my humanity for false heroism,” said another.
Another moving occasion was when the US flag that once flew in Afghanistan was folded and handed to Mary Kirkland, whose son Derek had committed suicide at the age of 20 after serving in Afghanistan and then ordered to go back once again (his story is shown here http://truth-out.org/news/item/9150-military-moms-dead-soldiers-and-nato-2012). Last year it was reported that every day 18 US veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan commit suicide.
Three women from Afghanistan then movingly related their stories and thoughts on what is happening in their country. Their courageous messages and the fact that they were speaking out in the country that was responsible for the actions that have struck them so deeply were unbelievably powerful.
At the end the rally was invited to disperse along with the veterans and the women from Afghanistan – most did. I did. Some did not and stayed on to make their own particular form of demonstration. Although I might understand how people might feel about seeing riot police in their city and how they might resent being told what to do and where to go in the restricted area that they were eventually confined to, it is a shame that as usual the media focused on the violence that occurred and not on the issues and reasons for so many people being there.
The major coverage in the Chicago Sun Times this morning was about the “black bloc” and police violence, just a few lines on the veterans returning their medals.
The reports on the TV and radio are much the same at the moment. Perhaps when they have had enough of covering the violence they might start covering the other issues. I hope so.”