Crowd grows at Grant Park for anti-NATO rally, march

May 20, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Dozens of world leaders are in town for the NATO summit, which is being held at McCormick Place.

The protesters have permits for Sunday's Grant Park rally and parade. Thousands of people are expected to attend the noon rally at the Petrillo Band Shell and then march to McCormick Place. The march is scheduled to begin around 2 p.m.

The parade route: From Grant Park, protesters will walk west along Jackson to State Street, then south to Harrison, east to Michigan Avenue and then south to Cermak Street. From there, they turn east to Indiana Avenue and south for one more block to reach McCormick Place.

    Rally/March Timeline:
  • 10:30 a.m. Musician Tom Morello performs
  • 12 p.m. Speakers
  • 2 p.m. Marchers leave Grant Park
  • 3p.m. Marchers arrive at McCormick Place (Vets speak, leave medals)

"We've had great publicity for this rally, our fear has been that people would listen to the messages of fear from local leadership and I think people are gonna turn out in spite of that," protest organizer Andy Thayer said.

"I'm confident the message is gonna get out today cause I think the crowd is gonna be bigger than the stated expectations. People from all over the country will be converging here this afternoon," Bill Steyert, Vietnam veteran/protester, said.

"NATO is taking away all our means for helping our children. . . our means, our education, and frankly we support 75 percent of NATO and I think that's a big farce," Kevin Smith, veteran, protester.

Veterans to lead anti-NATO march to McCormick

The anti-NATO march will be led by dozens of U.S. military veterans, mostly Army and Navy, who have served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the week, the vets have shared their stories of disenchantment about a mission they say changed from disarming a country, liberating a country and then occupying that country. They're in town to argue on an international stage that troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan before 2014.

"For every house that we enter, if there weren't terrorists there before, there are now," Graham Clumpner said.

"The military values the mission over the lives of these soldiers who recognize a very legitimate moral dilemma," Brock McIntosh said.

Also, they want full mental health care benefits for veterans.

At the end of the parade route, they will try to hand over their service medals to NATO representatives in a symbolic gesture that NATO's war and peace plans have not and are not working. NATO officials have not said if someone will be there to receive the medals.

"We don't want your medals, we want to give them back because these are dishonor to hold, we want to give them back because we stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and all victims of occupation around the world," Scott Kimball said.

"As veterans we swore to protect. We are once again going to step out front, make ourselves vulnerable and represent the majority of the people in this country. And give our medals back," Jacob George said.

The veterans will each speak for about 30 seconds at McCormick Place and then leave their NATO medals, either on a flag or by throwing them over the perimeter if a NATO representative is not present.

Dozens of groups feed into anti-NATO rally/march

Sunday's rally and march is organized by Coalition Against NATO/G8 Rally/March, but dozens of other groups are also joining, ranging from Occupy to individuals.

"We believe there is no more real usefulness for NATO. It is no longer a form of defensive role. NATO should be eliminated," Blaise Sewell, Occupy Chicago, said.

"So yesterday we saw a massive amount of people mobilizing on the streets and standing up for their rights and I think today we're gonna see that times ten," Lenny Bianchi, Veterans for Peace, said.

Protesters clash with police in unplanned marches

Sunday's planned rally and march follows one other permitted rally, which was held Friday in Daley Plaza by Nurses National United. That rally was peaceful.

However, since then there have been several impromptu marches that tied up downtown streets, including one Friday afternoon and one Saturday evening, which involved multiple arrests.

"You're seeing us facilitating peaceful protest, protecting people, providing for the public safety, while at the same time being intolerant of crimes being committed," Supt. Garry McCarthy said.

Supt. McCarthy spoke about an incident in which a protester was pushed by a police van on Saturday night. He said the officer was injured, suffering a concussion, but the protester was released from the hospital. Watch the Video

"The officer was at the front of the march and unfortunately the march overran him," Supt. McCarthy said. "This was one officer in a van by himself being swarmed by a crowd. Significant damage to the vehicle, his tires were slashed, the officer was injured. He had to get out of there. It's really that simple."

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