NATO Summit: Pre-Parade Protest Rally Gave a Variety of Perspectives

Photo by Nadvia DavisProtesters rally in Grant Park in preparation 
for the anti-NATO parade. (Photo by Nadvia Davis) 

NATO logoBy Nick Miller and Nadvia Davis
The Red Line Project

Posted: Monday, May 21, 2012

NATO protesters arrived at Grant Park an a warm, sunny Sunday with with anti-NATO signs in hand and plenty of sunblock. Water fountains lined each side of the park providing some relief to help ward off the 90-degree temperatures.

To begin the rally, anti-NATO protesters spoke one after another to an active crowd of protesters about the inequalities that NATO creates for countries around the world. Thousands were in attendance at the protest rally.

With chants like “No NATO, no war” and “When people’s rights are under attack...What do we do? Fight back!”, the speakers fired up the protesters in preparation for the march.

The anti-NATO protesters spoke on a variety of subjects, including the Trayvon Martin case, homelessness in Chicago, and the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the protesters, Samira Sayed-Rahman, is an organizer for Afghans For Peace, a non-violent organization which advocates for the removal of US forces from Afghanistan.

“This is the largest protest I have ever taken part in,” said Sayed-Rahman. “The overall atmosphere here is incredible.”

Sayed-Rahman was among the long list of well-known anti-NATO speakers in attendance. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, armed with an entourage of bodyguards, walked among the crowd and spoke with protesters about security concerns surrounding the protest.

Jackson urged protesters “to be non-violent” throughout the march to McCormick Place during a early morning. He also noted that a heightened police presence was needed to ensure the safety of all protesters involved.

Photo by Nick Miller

Police keep a close eye on protesters along the parade route. (Photo by Nick Miller)

A hush fell over the crowd when Zoe Sigman, an organizer with Occupy Chicago, took the stage. Sigman’s apartment was raided by Chicago Police on May 17. She stood before the crowd, visibly shaken, her voice cracking.

“The Chicago Police Department terrorized our trust!” Sigman told her fellow protesters. “I chose to fight back.”

In the crowd was an assortment of anti-government protesters, many with long, braided hair and peace signs. But there were also a number of war veterans protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DePaul student Jonathan Anderson, a former Marine who served two tours of duty overseas in Afghanistan, came to the rally to protest the war by returning his war medals. He was a part of larger group of veterans who had decided to “give back” their medals, renouncing their involvement in the war overseas in the Middle East.

“It is a very emotional ritual,” said Anderson. “There is a general sense of remorse, but with that, also comes a great sense cleansing as well.”

Covering the event were media outlets from all over the world, including notable political journalist Amy Goodman, host of the nationally syndicated independent radio show Democracy Now. 

“It is important as a journalist covering this story to give a voice to the voiceless,” Goodman said. “There is an overall silence in corporate media with some of these issues- which is why it is important to be out here covering them.”

The rally ended with a plea from speakers to “stand up for what’s right."

“We are here in Chicago to let our voices be heard,” Sigman said just before the rally broke into the protest march. “Now let’s go out there and exercise our democratic rights.”

Photo by Nick Miller

Protesters make their way to McCormick Place. (Photo by Nick Miller)

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