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NATO Meeting Kicks off With Harassment of Protesters, Ominous Warnings to Press

May 20, 2012

This article by Allison Kilkenny is re-posted from The Nation.

The Chicago police wasted no time harassing protesters Wednesday evening when they raided a Bridgeport apartment complex without a valid warrant and detained up to nine people without cause. The individuals have been identified as NATO activists, and the NLG quickly responded to the arrests.

“We’ve called police officials at every level trying to find out where they were being held. We were denied any information at all about any people being arrested, let alone a raid happening last night. So essentially these people were disappeared for more than twelve hours until we could finally locate them,” said NLG spokesman Kris Hermes.

Lawyers from The NLG were allowed to meet with nine individuals and reported that they were in low spirits, confused about why they were arrested and shackled at both their hands and feet at the meeting. No charges have been filed against them almost 24 hours after their arrest and an Illinois States Attorney at the station refused to meet with the NLG lawyers.

The theme of harassment continued over the weekend when a memo allegedly from the Chicago Police Department Office of International Relations, marked not intended for general distribution was posted online.

The three-page document outlines press behavior that will and will not be tolerated, including normally acceptable media maneuvers that will no longer be considered acceptable and actually might be grounds for arrest.

“No ‘cutting’ in and out of police lines will be permitted, or ‘going up against their backs,’” the document states, reportedly quoting Debra Kirby, chief of the Chicago Police Department Office of International Relations. “Those who follow protesters onto private property to document their actions are also will be [sic] subject to arrest if laws are broken.”

Weaving in and out of police lines is a critical right for journalists, particularly photojournalists, who frequently need to pass police lines to document police actions, most often arrests.

Upon arrest, media will go through the same booking process as anyone else, though “release of equipment depends on what part the equipment played in the events that led to the arrest,” the memo vaguely states.

Most absurdly, Kirby appears to place the onus of getting arrested on the press.

“She urges media to keep safety in mind and warns them to ‘not become the story,’” the memo warns, as though journalists are nothing more than spotlight-craving narcissists hellbent on enduring the thoroughly unpleasant experience of getting arrested and acquiring a police record in order to reap the lavish rewards of blogging about it later.

The ominous warnings to press and CPD policy of harassment and intimidation of protesters didn’t stop around a thousand people and a decently sized media presence from flooding Daley Plaza Friday afternoon for the National Nurses United rally.

The NNU gathered to demand the creation of a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street. Members wore red National Nurses United (NNU) shirts accompanied with green Robin Hood masks and hats in keeping with the theme of a small trading tax in order to raise badly needed revenue.

“[It’s] less than half a penny tax on financial transactions,” said Casey Hobbs, a registered nurse for thirty-seven years, adding, “With the billions of dollars we’d get from that, we’re gonna heal America. We’re going to do that by providing Medicare for all, we’re going to provide college educations, we’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, and put people back to work, and give back to the 99 percent.” (photo: Casey Hobbs)

Speakers, including rocker Tom Morello, regaled the crowd before a separate environmental march left the plaza for a non-permitted march.

Occupied Chicago Tribune editor Joe Macare witnessed at least one arrest during the procession, a young man named Henry who was reportedly arrested for wearing a mask. Some protesters believe Henry was specifically targeted by CPD. (photo by Joe Macare)

Friday kicked off a weekend of anti-NATO protests, including a “Say No to the War and Poverty Agenda” scheduled to take place at Petrillo Bandshell on Sunday, which includes a march afterward to McCormick Place. The event includes participants such as Jesse Jackson, SEIU Health Care Illinois/Indiana, the United National Antiwar Coalition, Chicago Teachers Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers Western Region, Malik Mujahid of the Muslim Peace Coalition and Veterans for Peace, among many others.

Afghanistan and Iraq veterans also plan to converge on Chicago that Sunday in Grant Park to march to the NATO summit where they will ceremoniously return their medals to NATO’s generals.

A call to action released by Iraq Veterans Against the War states, “We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed policies.” Calling this a march for justice and reconciliation, veterans say they will mobilize to “demand that NATO immediately end the occupation of Afghanistan and related economic and social injustices, bring U.S. war dollars home to fund our communities, and acknowledge the rights and humanity of all who are affected by these wars.”

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