Chicago, IL - One month after the historic protests against NATO, activists from across Chicago and even Milwaukee gathered in the shadow of the McCormick Place, site of the NATO summit, on June 30, for a discussion on the lessons of the NATO protests. The event was held at Trinity Episcopal Church and sponsored by Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).
In the months leading to the May 20 NATO summit, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the corporate media mounted a campaign to vilify protesters. In this growing climate of fear, Trinity Church took the opposite stand, allowing protesters to serve food, to camp and to hold meetings there.
At the June 30 forum, Trinity Church welcomed those in attendance. Senior Warden of the Vestry of Trinity, John Marshall, greeted the 40 some people and said that he saw the anti-NATO protesters doing the same work as the church. In his words, “If we hadn’t supported you, when we get in front of Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, we’d have some explaining.”
Alex Han, an activist with Stand Up, Chicago also spoke. Han was a speaker at the founding conference of CANG8 (the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda), the group that organized the mass march. A year ago, on June 22 when the NATO and at the time, G8 summits were announced in Chicago, many doubted that organized labor would endorse the protests. Han explained that Stand Up, Chicago had that same week in June launched a campaign of challenging the bankers and the CEOs. “3000 workers marched against a conference of financial officers of major financial corporations,” he said. Labor’s involvement was cemented because of the role of Occupy Chicago.
Vince Emanuelle of the Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke about the dramatic high point of the May 20 protest, when 40 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq threw their medals back to the NATO high command in front of 15,000 protesters at the CANG8 march. Emanuelle said that the veterans are struggling to understand what they went through and concluded, “We have to oppose imperialism and all forms of oppression.”
The most important social movement to emerge this year was the Occupy movement, and Rachael Perrotta, a frequent spokesperson for the Occupy Chicago media committee, was the next to address the forum. She spoke about the level of involvement of the Occupy movement, the 10 days of protest and action, including teach ins, that Occupy helped organize against NATO. “Our press committee was at the convergence center at Multi Kulti [a grassroots activism center], where we had huge screens of feeds from all our indy media video. We were able to communicate with 20 Occupy spokespersons in the protests to respond to requests for interviews from mainstream media.” The mood of protest created by Occupy laid the basis for the success of the NATO protests.
Joe Iosbaker of FRSO was the last speaker and commented on the historic victory that was scored against NATO and the ruling class.
The forum then broke into small groups, where everyone grappled with the debates over tactics that had faced CANG8 and the anti NATO protesters throughout the year.
At the close of the event, Iosbaker reminded the group of the importance of their gathering and debates. “Within every fight we take up, there are actually two fights: the struggle on the streets between us and our enemy; and the struggle for summation. Of the two, the second is the most important, because we can win in the streets and lose the battle for summation.”