On Sunday, August 28, 163 people came together at the Kent College of Law in downtown Chicago to organize protests at the May 2012 NATO and G8 meetings in Chicago. The 163 people represented 73 organizations. Around 60 of those present came from outside of Chicago, mainly from nearby states but including people from as far away as California, Texas, Boston, New York, and Canada. The meeting supported proposals from the United National Antiwar Coalition to build peaceful, permitted actions at the opening of the NATO/G8 meetings on May 15, 2012 and a mass demonstration on Saturday, May 19, 2012. Additionally, it approved providing an educational platform during the NATO/G8 meetings for national and international rally speakers to put forth an alternative agenda.
Presentations were given by leaders who had organized the demonstrations at the St. Paul Republican National Convention, the Pittsburgh G20 demonstrations, and the Toronto G20 demonstrations, who described what they learned. Also presenting were leaders of UNAC and other organizations, including UNAC steering committee members Malik Mujahid of the Muslim Peace Coalition, Mark Johnson of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Chicago UNAC leader Joe Iosbaker from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Joe Iosbaker is one of the antiwar and solidarity activists whose homes were raided by the FBI and who have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury. Pat Hunt from Chicago Code Pink and Chicago Peace Action chaired a number of sessions and played a leading role in the meeting. Additional presenters were Andy Thayer of the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism and the Gay Liberation Network, Keeanga Taylor of the Communities United Against Foreclosure and Evictions, Mark Clements for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, N’dana Carter of Southside Together Organizing for Power, Demetrius Lightfoot of Fearless Leading by the Youth, Muhammad Sunkari of Arab American Action Network, Alex Han for Stand Up! Chicago, Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN, a progressive Filipino organization, and Abayomi Azikiwe of Bail Out the People. An educational panel on NATO and the G8, and on why they are coming to Chicago, included UNAC leaders Jeff Mackler and Ashley Smith along with Rick Rozoff of the group Stop NATO. Additionally, UNAC co-coordinators Marilyn Levin and Joe Lombardo spoke. Marilyn Levin’s opening remarks can be seen by clicking here
There were three breakout sessions. In the first, people organized themselves into work committees such as outreach, logistics, media, etc. The second breakout session was for constituencies such as students, labor, etc., and the third breakout session was reserved for regional meetings.
The Chicago activists organized a well-run daylong meeting. The Chicago media including a major TV station paid close attention to the meeting, and articles appeared in the Chicago Tribune (click here for the Chicago Tribune article) and the Sun Times.
The meeting voted on a proposal to organize the protests and coordinate activity between local and national structures. It also voted on a set of principles, the Chicago Principles, which was adopted from the St. Paul and Pittsburgh demonstrations against the Republican National Convention and the G20 meeting. These principles outline a method of cooperation and mutual support by all groups involved in organizing protests during the NATO/G8 meetings (click here for the text of the Chicago Principles).
It is rare for NATO and the G8 countries to hold their meetings at the same place and same time. It validates much of what the antiwar movement has been saying for years: that the wars are tied to economic policies and resources. These meetings are happening at a time when much of the world is in revolt over the wars and austerity imposed by NATO and the G8 governments. Our protests will be part of our own revolt against those policies. The entire world will be watching us.
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For more information, visit <nationalpeaceconference.org>. Cf. “Right to Protest NATO/G8 Summit” (Chicago Access Network Television, 4 August 2011); Stansfield Smith, “Cities Pay Millions for First Amendment Violations and Police Violence. Will Chicago Be Next?” (MRZine, 14 August 2011).
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