8 NATO protesters arrested at Prudential Plaza

May 14, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The protesters said they were taking a stand against the war in Afghanistan. They gathered downtown Monday morning at the building that houses President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters.

Six men and two women were led out of the Prudential building in handcuffs for trespassing. Those arrested were part of an anti-NATO protest group called Catholic Workers, which supports an end to all war.

"We see NATO as an egregious act of violence and oppression. As Catholics, we believe in the works of mercy, that it is important to build community," said protester Jerica Arntz.

After singing songs of peace in the Prudential Plaza outside, the demonstrators moved inside the building.

Once in the lobby, the group requested a meeting with the president's staff to encourage a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, but security guards shut down the elevator banks, and approximately 30 Chicago police bike officers responded within minutes.

"In a symbolic way, we have sent out our message to the Obama campaign and to media outlets around the city to say we can live without NATO," said Jake Olzen, also a protester.

With the NATO Summit less than one week away, Monday's small protest and arrests represent just a small sliver of what is expected in the days to come. There are growing indications that the gathering of world leaders is near. NATO flags started to appear over the weekend, and parking bans near McCormick Place have gone into effect. Cars left parked on Indiana between Cermak and 24th Street were towed. Indiana is the first north-south street west of McCormick Place. More parking restrictions and road closures will be added later in the week. Click here for more information on closures and restrictions.

Overnight, Chicago police became more visible in the Loop and on the Magnificent Mile. Squad cars, police vans and some SUVs were parked on Michigan Avenue -- some on the side of the street, others in the median. Numerous officers were also seen walking the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, Monday's protesters remained nonviolent, and the arrests happened peacefully.

"Who knows? We don't know what the police response is going to be this week, but we're happy that things were even handed on the police side," Olzen said.

Among those arrested were three from Chicago, three from Iowa and one person from Los Angeles. They were charged with criminal trespassing.

The NATO summit is next Sunday and Monday.

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