Member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be sending heads of state and leaders in their governments to Chicago in about a week. They will be coming to Chicago for a NATO summit on May 20-21. It will be the first NATO summit to be hosted in an American city other than Washington, DC, and those in attendance are expected to discuss Afghanistan along with missile defense plans.
Meanwhile, various protest groups will be out asserting their First Amendment right to protest, a right that has been under threat throughout the past months as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city of Chicago use various methods to make it difficult for people to organize and assemble in public.
There is one protest rally and march on Sunday, May 20. The rally will take place in Grant Park and then a march led by a contingent of Afghanistan veterans with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will lead protesters to McCormick Place, where the summit is being held. (Additional plans were discussed at a press conference that can be read about here.)
I am based out of Chicago and will be posting regular coverage of the upcoming NATO summit regularly from now until the summit is over. This may transform into a live blog, but for now, I will be posting roundups that provide everything one needs to know to stay up-to-date on all the latest developments.
—The People’s Summit is happening this weekend, May 12-13.
Occupy Chicago has spent the past months organizing and today will be the first day of this summit that gathers “community groups, labor unions, anti-racist organizers, Occupy activists, environmentalists, faith leaders, immigrant rights activists and anyone else committed to social justice to a grassroots, bottom-up forum of, by and for the 99 percent.”
The Summit has been set up to sharply contrast with the “war makers” that are going to be meeting in Chicago for the NATO summit. Malalai Joya, who is a former Afghan member of Parliament and known opponent of NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan, will be speaking, along with Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin and other peace activists. However, it will not only focus on issues of war. Economic justice issues that have inspired the Occupy movement will be discussed during sessions as well.
—Some downtown businesses are shutting down during the NATO summit.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a health insurance company, is telling workers to “telecommute” on May 18 and 20. Challenger, Grey, & Christmas is encouraging “telecommuting.” Employees of Sidley & Austin are also planning to stay home to avoid “hassles.”
—Chicago’s Metra train service will have tighter security than airports.
During the NATO summit, passengers will be prohibited from carrying foods, liquids or having backpacks. Bag checks and extra screenings of passengers are likely. The justification for this security theater is that Metra trains run underneath the McCormick Place convention center where the summit will be held.
—NATO head suggests Pakistan may not be allowed to participate in NATO summit.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has insinuated in a passive aggressive manner that Pakistan might miss out on “important talks on the future of Afghanistan” if it does not open NATO supply routes before the summit. The routes have been shut down as Pakistan tries to pressure the US to apologize for a “cross-border attack.” They also have kept them closed as part of a push to force the US to respect the country’s sovereignty and stop launching drone attacks in Pakistan.
—Israel is not invited to the NATO summit.
Secretary General Rasmussen says this is because Israel does not participate in the alliance’s “main military missions.” There is suggestion in news reports that Turkey had Israel blocked from attending the summit because of the attack on the Gaza Flotilla in 2010. There is no evidence to support this suggestion at the time.
—National Nurses United makes a deal with Emanuel and the city to still hold Daley Plaza rally.
The deal may seem like a victory, but that depends on what the nurses union viewed as most critical to their plans. Their rally will now be two hours instead of five hours. It will happen in the Loop in Daley Plaza. They will be permitted thirty minutes of music performances at the end of the rally (by Tom Morello and any other musicians). Morello and the nurses consider this a victory, but now there is no march from Sheraton Hotel, where President Obama will be staying.
—People have been preparing for months to come protest the NATO summit.
The Chicago Tribune has a good article on all the preparations being made by those who have traveled here and those who live here but have to be prepared for possible arrests, dealing with police, feeding and housing people, etc.
—Rahm Emanuel’s first year as mayor is nauseatingly lauded.
Here the Chicago Sun-Times goes to great lengths to make people realize that Rahm has been a Great Mayor and he has only just begun. Liberal city council member Joe Moore grovels at his feet. One can also see that the NATO summit was something Emanuel forced upon the city of Chicago. It was something he wanted so he could bask in the glory. He got it and then sprung it on Chicagoans.
And, here is an interview I produced with Micah Philbrook of Occupy Chicago.
Philbrook is one of the few people, who has been with Occupy Chicago since the beginning. He talks about why Occupy Chicago is protesting NATO (“the war machine of the 1%”) and describes how the group has had to battle Emanuel on a daily basis to protect their First Amendment rights in the city of Chicago.