What did thousands of people accomplish by protesting in Chicago this week during the NATO Summit? If you have thoughts on that, please write me. Mine:
- "NATO = Peace & Security," as banners across the Loop said? No, NATO = Protest, in Chicago, from here on out. The words "NATO Summit" were always accompanied by the word "protest" in Chicago media. This began to get people asking what we were protesting. When World Can’t Wait went out to neighborhoods with our multi-language "Humanity & the Planet Come First," people asked, "are you the protesters? You’re here!" Some of the most economically crushed, riding the bus from work, gave us small donations to support the protests. People opened their homes and hearts.
- Thursday May 17, when we put together a quick protest of the US drone war, beginning at the Obama Re-Election HQ, then marching to the British, German and Canadian consulates, the unmistakable message – which even the mainstream media picked up – was that we were against US/NATO wars. A CBS reporter told me afterward, that she had interviewed people watching. She wanted us to know that a woman had told her, "This morning, I wasn’t thinking about war and babies dying and drones. Now I am." Thanks to Code Pink & Veterans for Peace for the drone models, and to our Chicago World Can’t Wait for the photos of NATO victims.
- Sunday May 20, when Iraq Veterans Against the War solemnly took the stage and threw their medals over the fence toward the NATO meeting – a political and emotional high point of the week – they did it not for themselves, but "for the people of Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world," as Scott Kimball said. This action was so important for the veterans themselves, and for everyone who saw it live and broadcast (ABC video). See poem by Afghan activist read for the vets, kneeling, and all of us.
- We stood up to repression, and kept our sense of purpose and focus. We went to Chicago with substantive criticism of NATO & US actions. But the powers that be had no answer to those criticisms; only the baseball bat-sized clubs thery carried; the threat of beatings and being locked up. This was not a Chicago PD operation; as has been the case since 9/11, it was a "national security event" where the feds were in charge, with police from as far as Memphis pulled in to stand idle in front of office buildings. Yes, we were mostly "allowed" to march; but the police were also massed in overwhelming force, 10 rows deep, ready mostly not to arrest, but to inflict injury.
When confronted with this force, the protesters overwhelmingly responded by holding their ground with dignity and looking out for each other. They did not act anything like the police.
We communicated beyond the United States to those in countries targeted by NATO. One new friend, a young lawyer from Pakistan, found our multi-language banners (including his, Urdu) and marched with us, taping the chants on video to share at home later. At the memorial for NATO victims the next day, he shared his perspective and joy in finding that there are people in the US who are aware of the death and destruction US/NATO drones are wreaking – and are committed to ending these horrors.Watch the video.
Attorney Kathleen Kirwin, who joined the march on Sunday from Florida, wrote:
"We educated the world about NATO’s existence and the death, destruction and poverty it causes all over the world……We revealed its hypocrisy, arrogance and fear of being found out to be offensive killing machine it is. I think mostly, though, our individual and collective presence in Chicago gave hope to so many whose voices could never be heard and who could never get as close as we got to being heard. It reminded me of an article I wrote this time last year about Obama stealing hope…probably the worst thing that can happen to a person….We will never know who or how many or where we reached in that regard, but I know we did.
As I showed some friends pictures of the Sunday march and the Friday night event when I got home, I told them about you, your tireless dedication, my incredible respect for you, your work and your organization. I told them that of all the thousands of messages and groups present in Chicago, that the "world cant wait" was the message that trumped all others and that was why I wanted to be with you. (and we did have the BEST banners…)
You are so right….the world cant wait…..I believe that so strongly and it keeps me up nights and consumes my days with worry, as I know it does yours. And so we fight and I was honored to be fighting with you in Chicago as I will be for all the fights to come."
THANKS to the dozens of you who donated funds for banners and the contingent in Chicago; to the dozens who marched and worked with World Can’t Wait; to the hundreds we met along the way. We learned we still have much more to do so that a huge number of people hear the words "U.S. war" and think "illegitimate – unjust – immoral" and take visible action with us against it.