War vets to hold anti-NATO rally, return NATO medals

May 17, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The demonstrations have become everyday activities as the city prepares to welcome world leaders this weekend. The NATO summits will be held May 20-21.

As of Thursday evening, the protests have drawn small- to moderate-sized crowds and have been orderly and, for the most part, quite peaceful. They are themed and meant to draw more focused attention on issues. Thursday's protests were held outside the campaign headquarters of President Obama and the Canadian, German and British consulates.

As police lined up their bicycles to send an early message that protesters will not be allowed inside the Prudential Building, activists prepared for their anti-NATO demonstration. On Thursday, the groups Code Pink and World Can't Wait wanted to call attention to the use of drone aircraft, which they call "illegal misuse."

"Who will the drone kill today? Is this the way you want your country remembered?" one protester said.

"The Afghan people's lives have not improved substantially and the numbers of people killed in the process undercuts the whole message," Col. Ann Wright, U.S. Army (retired), said.

Wright is a retired Army colonel who resigned in protest from her state department job one day before the start of war with Iraq. She is now a traveled, outspoken opponent of the wars and NATO. On Thursday, she helped lead the march of four to five dozen protestors.

Their chants drew curiosity, acknowledgement from some that maybe foreign wars aren't on our radar screen as they should be, and from others disagreement.

"I think NATO is important. I think it bans the larger countries together and it can make leaders accountable for what they do... and without that group, I don't know what would happen," Rosemary Johnson said.

"We're asking a NATO rep to come out on May 20 and acknowledge the humanity of those individuals who've served under their command," Aaron Hughes, Iraq Vets Against the War, said.

Arguably the most symbolic of the protest images will come Sunday afternoon when anti-war veterans lead a march to Michigan and Cermak -- where they will speak and then leave their NATO medals behind in protest.

"And to give them back, I hope demonstrates how difficult an issue this is for us every single evening as we go to bed and we can't sleep. We are back there and we have not yet come home," Graham Clumpner, veteran, said.

The veterans say they desire a solemn ceremony, and want a NATO representative to accept their service medals. It's not clear whether that will happen. If it doesn't, the vets have said they may pin their medals to an American flag, or they may simply pitch them over the security fence.

The protesters who went to the consulates Thursday did not attempt to enter and there were no arrests.

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