The selling and marketing of upcoming G8 and NATO meetings has fully commenced. The slogan has been unveiled for the meetings: “The Global Crossroads.” The meetings will be all about taking the “global stage.” But, as the host committee for the meetings and business organizations, which plan to promote the event, try to convince media to focus on the “benefits,” tens of thousands of people are expected to come to Chicago to protest the meetings that will take place May 19-21.
Days ago, Adbusters, the magazine that put out the initial call to Occupy Wall Street, called for people to go Occupy Chicago and bring a tent on May 1:
Against the backdrop of a global uprising that is simmering in dozens of countries and thousands of cities and towns, the G8 and NATO will hold a rare simultaneous summit in Chicago this May. The world’s military and political elites, heads of state, 7,500 officials from 80 nations, and more than 2,500 journalists will be there.
And so will we.
On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.
The call to action says protesters will be ready to make demands for
a Robin Hood Tax … a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading … a binding climate change accord … a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals … an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East … whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm – we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out.
If the protests in the run-up to the meetings do not convince political and military elites to respond to these demands, there will be flash mobs in the streets and massive protest at stock exchanges, campuses and corporate headquarters all over the world. Demonstrators will “make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear.”
The presence of tens of thousands of people gathering before the meetings would definitely undermine the intention and objective of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the host committee to bring “prestige” to Chicago. It will also be nice payback for Emanuel, who recently shocked the Chicago City Council into passing two ordinances that he claimed were primarily for preparation and security for the meetings. He included provisions in these ordinances that contain guidelines that are likely to inhibit those looking to exercise their First Amendment rights.
This is a small sample of the spin that the host committee is using to promote the summits:
While the summits themselves will be closed to the public, the Chicago G8 NATO Host Committee is making plans for a variety of programs to inform our community about these historic events. The summits offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our city — and especially our students — to witness world leaders working together to address global challenges.
In the months ahead, the Host Committee will be working with the city’s business, civic and philanthropic groups to organize events and welcome the visiting dignitaries.
This suggests not only should demonstrators be planning protests but they should be planning regular events in the run-up to the meetings so that the impact of indoctrinating young students and Chicago residents is limited. They already are claiming this is a good way to increase tourism, an assertion based on zero evidence. The city is also looking forward to 2,000 journalists being in Chicago to cover the summits. They believe media will bring the city good attention, as they are likely to print statements from city officials that celebrate the “economic vitality” and spirit of Chicago.
Some aldermen have become wary of how the city is likely to handle security. They are seeking to pre-empt the city from clamping down unnecessarily on citizens. For example, Alderman Ricardo Munoz will be introducing legislation on February 15, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, that “would prohibit the Chicago Police Department from attempting to cut off access to social networking sites and cell phone networks during the back-to-back summits at McCormick Place — even though Chicago Police say they have no such plans.”
Munoz said, “Social media sites are more than information-sharing tools. They are also organizing tools. They’re fundamental to our right to free speech and public assembly.” The meeting of the G8 will be the first meeting on “American soil in the age of Twitter.” He added, “This is a pre-emptive marker. Law enforcement already has the tools to deal with criminal behavior. We shouldn’t be shutting down free speech.” And, “Everybody’s first response is, ‘That can’t happen here.’ But just last year, the San Francisco Police Department interrupted cell phone communication to disrupt an anti-police brutality protest simply by turning off the power to cell phone towers. That’s how easy it is.”
The anti-police brutality protest he referred to was the protest where BART cutoff cell phone service so a planned action would not be significantly large.
Interestingly, Munoz voted for the ordinances that place restrictions on protests in Chicago during the meetings and after.
Conventional wisdom has begun to etch in stone this idea that the meetings will bring great violence from protesters and the violence will do great damage to stores and businesses on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. Andy Thayer of the Coalition Against the NATO/G8′s War and Poverty Agenda was on Chicago Tonight a couple nights ago and addressed this fear:
Are these people really people we want? You talk about Hu Jintao from China or you’re talking about Vladmir Putin or Medvedev from Russia. These are some of the world’s leading human rights abusers. Then you have groups like NATO, which has given us the wildly unpopular Afghanistan War. So, if you want to talk about violence, if you want to talk about human rights abuses, whatever happens to Michigan Avenue shops is frankly peanuts compared to what the United States through NATO and the G8 is doing to countries around the world. So, there’s a reason why people are very passionate about protesting against these groups.
The other thing I would is challenge the spin that frankly the city has been giving us and all their business leaders about who is responsible for the violence because if you look at, for example, the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle the city ended up paying out $1.8 million for that protest due to the rampant violations of protesters’ rights. And you’ve seen that pattern over and over again. In fact, the Seattle Police Department took the city to task.
A Chicago police officer’s website just this week provided indication that officers are likely to violate citizens’ rights during the summits. A cop posted a photo of electrical tape that said next to it, “Your new G8 best friend.” Why? Because the tape could be used to conceal badge numbers and nameplates that protesters and legal observers might like to read so you could be held accountable for police brutality or infringing upon the rights of citizens.
Here is the full 20-minute segment on the upcoming NATO/G8 meetings. The segment features Thayer and also Lori Healey, head of the host committee, Felicia Davis, Deputy Chief of Staff to Emanuel and Allen Sanderson, a lecturer from the University of Chicago’s Economics Department.