International Action Center | May 20 NATO protest – Peoples' victory over overwhelming police repression

The International Action Center congratulates the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8) for a well-organized, powerful united mass rally with a focused message against NATO, NATO’s wars, growing repression and the disastrous cuts in every social program. May 20 was, despite all the threats and violence baiting, the largest antiwar demonstration in many years.

From the first day that NATO’s Summit extravaganza was announced a year ago in May of 2011, the United National Antiwar Coalition – UNAC announced its determination to organize a mass opposition to NATO. The International Action Center is proud to have been part of this rich and fruitful process throughout. UNAC’s bold initiative and immediate applications for permits to march led to the formation of a strong Chicago-based coalition: Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda – CANG8. The Occupy Movement nationally took up the call to converge on Chicago to oppose NATO. Occupy Chicago played an important role in organizing an entire week of resistance actions, including days of action for immigrant rights, against foreclosures, for public education and for the environment. National unions came on board. The National Nurses Union was particularly exemplary with the call for a Friday, May 18 mass march for full health care for all. The same union helped to bring buses of Occupy activists from around the country to support several days of activity. The Iraq Veterans Against the War led the May 20th demonstration and in a moving ceremony at the closing rally threw their medals from imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan back at NATO.

There were three national conferences during the week of activity: The Peoples Summit, the NATO-Free Future Conference and the U.S. founding of the International League of Peoples Struggles each drew hundreds of participants.

The Sunday march was vibrant. The important participation of the veterans, and the image of returning their medals, combined with the contingent against political repression, united with Palestinians, Philippine activists, the many signs of No war on Iran and troops out of Afghanistan, stop drone attacks, the signs for Bradley Manning and against cutbacks and racism, along with the union participation – it all showed a powerful level of developing unity with the struggle here and around the world. Every major political force in the progressive movement came forward to endorse the May 20th demonstration and participate in the demonstration.

These are images that NATO generals and the whole corporate and military establishment want to totally bury.

This whole week of activity has taken the movement to a new level and has helped youth in motion in the Occupy movement understand NATO as an enemy of humanity.

Internationally, the May 20th Chicago protest sparked other demonstrations against NATO from Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Iran, to Greece, Germany, Ireland and Britain.

Role of the corporate media

We shouldn’t be surprised at the corporate media’s focus on the fabricated “violence of demonstrators”. Their role is to hide any understanding of NATO as a criminal conspiracy, committed to violence, corporate domination and human degradation.

NATO, the US commanded military alliance, is responsible for the greatest level of violence and brutal repression of people’s movements on a world scale. It employed many similar tactics on a domestic level in Chicago, in an all out media and police effort to undermine broad popular support for the protests against NATO.

But the overwhelming numbers of police in the streets, their threatening equipment, the tactics of the state’s repressive apparatus and then the level of police violence against the demonstrators was all so outrageous that it fully exposed the violence of NATO, more clearly than words and signs could ever do.

All the planned protests for weeks before were described routinely as security threats, a source of violence, a danger to workers in Chicago. Activists were ominously described as reckless provocateurs. Every effort was made to demonize youth activists and drive a wedge between young Occupy Chicago activists and union and community based support.

More than 2,000 journalists registered to cover the NATO extravaganza. They were tantalized with gourmet food and regular official briefings on the accepted line of coverage. There was little deviation from the tightly scripted coverage. Clear demands for an end to war and repression and for the right to a job, healthcare and education were continually described by the corporate media as unfocused and vague.

The media gave wall-to-wall coverage to a police raid on a house where young Occupy Chicago activists were staying as a “center of terrorism”. Activists were arrested on felony domestic terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism charges. Three of the eight youths arrested are being held on $1.5 million bail.

NATO employs the same blanket labels of ‘terrorists’ and the same conspiracy charges on people resisting occupation in countries around the world. Overwhelming force is used by US commanded NATO forces to shut down every act of resistance by millions of people asserting their rights.

Police-state tactics

Chicago became an occupied city. Thousands of police forces from around the state and the country were brought in. Whole sections of the city were locked down. Public squares and parks were lined with police and their hundreds of vehicles. Roads were closed and public transportation was sporadic. Schools and colleges were closed and dorms emptied before NATO meeting.

In clear violation of free speech and access to information, activists and international media attempting to cover the protests complained of Internet, streaming, texting and GPS interference. US officials denounce and lecture other countries around the world when they do this, but in the face of one demonstration, they have done the same.

To host the 28 nation US dominated military alliance, that drew the heads of state from 60 countries, along with cabinet members, hundreds of generals and officers according to the Chicago Tribune May 21, the city of Chicago required “a near state of lockdown.”

But all these enormous inconveniences were blamed on those coming to protest war and cutbacks.

The police, the city officials, and the compliant media did everything possible to terrorize the population of Chicago and the region and keep them from even coming downtown on Sunday. The media gave endless coverage of danger, threats, violence, along with road closings, searches etc. All of this was meant to undermine support for the demonstration and to demonize and criminalize our youth as the supposed source of violence. It makes the turnout an even greater accomplishment.

Broad support for a protest against NATO was clear everywhere activists went in Chicago. Warm Greetings from bus drivers, store clerks for the activists carrying signs or wearing buttons were routine.

The media demonization was calculated to turn back from active participation in the May 20th Rally many who had broad sympathy for the anti NATO demonstration.

However what was most significant about Sunday’s demonstration is that the participation of 15,000 to 20,000 protesters despite weeks of fear mongering far exceeded the CANG8 organizers own expectations.

The NATO meeting was clearly organized to promote the continued expansion of NATO and an effort to gain new funds and soldiers for the disastrous war in Afghanistan.

Just as war in Afghanistan has totally failed to meet imperialism’s strategic aims or crush the resistance to occupation, the continual demonization of Chicago protesters failed to undercut the May 20 protests.

It’s clear once again NATO rules through fear. In this period of unsolvable capitalist crisis this is their only weapon. We must be aware that NATO has named a new challenge it will deal with: they call it “political turbulence in member states”. This is a direct threat today to the people of Greece, who are refusing to accept any further bankers’ austerity. It is a threat against all the emerging social and political movements in Europe as well as the United States.

Greece is today totally bankrupt because it is the largest importer of NATO arms in Europe and the 4th largest arms importer in the world. The people are facing starvation while EU and US bankers in every bailout package demand continued weapons purchases and continued payments on past weapons purchases.

Of course the media will attempt to undercut our numbers, shrink them completely and also take the focus off of NATO by talking about “violence of the youth”. We can’t allow either thing to happen.

When returning home, we can’t forget the youth rounded up in Chicago and facing outrageous charges of terrorism, conspiracy, enormous bails and possibly long trials. We must make the police-state tactics a national issue. The anti-war Movement as a whole, the UNAC coalition and every organization within the UNAC Coalition must contribute to making these criminal raids and police attacks a national issue.

And we must now bring the energy and momentum of Chicago directly into the mobilizing efforts already underway for protest at the Republican and Democratic conventions in August and September.

Congratulations again to all who worked so hard together for many months to make May 20, 2012 an historic day for the social justice and anti-war movement.

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