NATO Summit: The People's Summit Coverage

Sharon Post Photo by Courtney Ley

Sharon Post of the Chicago Political Economy Group discusses
the job crisis at the People's Summit. (Photo by Courtney Ley)


Updated: Saturday, May 12, 2012

As world leaders prepare to meet at next weekend’s NATO summit at McCormick Place, local activists met Saturday on behalf of the people at Occupy Chicago’s South Side headquarters.

 The People’s Summit, organized by CANG8 and held at 500 W. Cermak Road, began with activists, groups and unions gathering in protest of political oppression by advocating a democratic revolution ending global war, austerity and capitalism.

Donkor Makini, president of Universal Church In Search of Christ, was just one of the many protestors present to offer others insight into their personal demands for social justice.

Makini, whose church originated in Uptown among the most diverse community in the United States, emphasized the free day revolutionary movement and its call for all things to be free to all of mankind.

“Mankind actually improves, in reality, as one,” he said regarding the absence of worldwide peace. “But when we begin to worship something other than ourselves, such as the idols of money, then we begin to see each other as two.”

Beginning in 2006, the free day revolutionary movement is part of Makini’s religious organization, which was instigated in 1997 and received the free day mandate in 2005. Makini said the UCIC community consists of citizens who are disabled on political issues like social security.

Through plenary sessions and interactive workshops, the summit presented citizens with alternative visions of the world that don’t comply with those constituting the 1 percent. While many attendees were eager to have their voice heard, others expressed themselves by simply wearing ant-G8/NATO hats, buttons and T-shirts.

Mel Rothenberg of the Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG) led one workshop that focused on America’s current financial collapse.

Rothenberg, professor Emeritus of Mathematics at University of Chicago and longtime social activist, began his talk by expressing the importance of engaging and exchanging with the audience.

Called “Confronting the Job Crisis,” the workshop was led by Rothenberg and two other CPEG members, Sharon Post and Joe Persky, to center around three issues: jobs, taxes and political mobilization. With Rothenberg speaking on the latter, he states his concern for society’s structural problem of the labor force no longer fitting the jobs that are out there.

“The private sector, by itself, even with the kind of normal stimulation you see in a recession, will not rectify the situation,” he said of the economy needing harsh treatments to improve. -- Courtney Ley



Summit Offers Wide Variety of Discussions

Photo by Brittany Lawler

People’s Summit guest speaker Norine Gutekanst, organizing
coordinator of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. (Photo by Brittany Lawler)

The rain and cool temperatures didn't do anything to dampen the message that shined through during the first day of The People’s Summit.

The summit attracted renowned speakers such as Abdul Malik Mujahid, founder of the Muslim Peace Coalition; Eric Ruder, journalist for; and Occupy Chicago member Ann Wright, a retired Army Reserves colonel; and Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network together to speak out against NATO efforts and injustices.

Protest organizer Pat Hunt, chairperson of the People’s Summit, said the protestors “are the ones who will enact change, not individually but collectively.”

Mujahid echoed Hunt his speech saying, “I see a good part of this gathering are going to shape this country.”

During the first plenary, entitled NATO/G8: Their Agenda of War and Austerity, the speakers discussed several issues currently affecting the public. Topics ranged from Palestinian Repression to Chicago Public Schools  financial strains.

“We must demand that there be equity in education,” said Norine Gutekanst, the organizing coordinator for the Chicago Teacher’s Union. 

According to Occupy Chicago Education Committee member Dana Cutts, the summit is an important event because it allows a diverse group of people the opportunity to come together and unite against a common foe, NATO.

“This is very important because we need to create spaces for everyday people to talk about these issues that we’re usually excluded from,” said Cutts, who also helped organize the event. “That’s what the summit today and tomorrow is all about.”

On Saturday, the first day of the two-day event, the summit offered comprehensive forums that included large panels and workshops such as: "What is Capitalist Democracy 2012?", "Health Care is a Human Right", "Confronting the Job Crisis", "Summit Protest Politics" and "People’s Media vs. 1% Media". 

The workshops, which will continue Sunday, are one part of the summit that individuals can choose which topic they would like to learn more about. 

Not only were there 20 different workshops each day, there is also a diverse group of presenters, ranging from professionals to young students.

Margaret Christoforo, 20, a student at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., will be presenting a workshop Sunday entitled "The Generations of Globalization". 

“The goal is not only to challenge my own views,” said Christoforo, “but challenge the views as a whole.”

The task of changing the minds of others is difficult, but participants of the summit remain diligent.  The hope that all the efforts will bring about a social change is fuel for the fight. 

“The People’s Summit was put together to provide an alternative vision,” said Hunt.  “We’re tired of the fear.” -- Brittany Lawler and Madeline Szrom 

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