Mayor Emanuel: We demand permits to march!

Anti-war and other groups respond to threats of mass arrests at NATO/G8 protests

By staff |
July 29, 2011
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Joe Iosbaker speaking at Chicago press conference demanding right to to protest
Joe Iosbaker speaking at Chicago press conference demanding right to to protest at G8/NATO summit. (Photo: Bill Chambers)

Chicago, IL - People from two dozen organizations attended a press conference here, July 28, in front of the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They were there with one immediate goal: to demand permits to march on the May 2012 summit of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the G8 (Group of Eight).

"Why are we here so early in this process, ten months before the NATO/G8 summit?" asked Joe Iosbaker of the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC). To answer the question, he held up a copy of a recent Chicago Sun-Times.

On behalf of UNAC, Iosbaker had started the process of applying for protest permits in June when the Obama administration announced the summit would be held in Chicago May 15th to 22nd next year. The response from the Emanuel administration came sooner than expected, when the Sun-Times ran a front page story in which the Superintendent of Police, Garry McCarthy, said he was preparing the 13,000 officers under his command for mass arrests of protestors. McCarthy also made it clear that there would be federal agencies involved in the repression of protestors as well.

The 40 activists on Thursday delivered a letter to Emanuel that was written by a committee of local anti-war and community activists. The letter demanded:

  • Grant us permits to rally and march to the NATO/G8 summit
  • Guarantee our civil liberties
  • Guarantee us there will be no spying, infiltration of organizations or other attacks by the FBI or partner law enforcement agencies

The right to protest against war and austerity

Iosbaker explained that, "The wars and economic policies of the NATO and G8 nations are not just and will be met by protest." Following him, speaker after speaker rose to add their voices.

Jokarhi Shakur, a student leader with the Save City Colleges (SCC) coalition, reminded Emanuel that students, faculty and workers in the City Colleges were opposed to the budget cuts coming down on them. Shakur and the SCC had been the first group in town to protest the new mayor, having protested at the inauguration in May.

The peace movement in Chicago has a number of prominent activists, but none who are more recognized around the country and around the world than Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence. She spoke of the 10 years of war that the Afghan people had suffered under NATO direction.

One of the biggest rounds of applause was received by Mark Clement of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Clement spent 28 years in prison after a Chicago cop tortured him into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. The repressive and violent nature of the Chicago Police Department is clear from his story and those of the many other victims of police torture.

Andy Thayer of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism (CCAWR), and the Gay Liberation Network, pointed out that it was this history of police abuse that caused the city of Chicago to lose its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. He recalled the years that CCAWR spent fighting for the right to protest against the administration of Mayor Daley. In addition, he talked about the unlawful mass arrest of 800 marchers carried out by 2,000 riot police on the night the Iraq War began in 2003, and the long class action legal battle that was undertaken.

Tom Burke of the national Committee to Stop FBI Repression remarked that the mobilizations against NATO and G8 would put Chicago in the forefront of the struggle against war and austerity. "Rahm Emanuel seems to think he's in charge of an empire, like a new Napoleon. But Chicago belongs to the people of this city, and we're going to march, we're going to bring our families and our children, and we will invite our friends from around the country to join us in Chicago."

Burke is one of the 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists targeted by raids and a grand jury investigation that started in September 2010. That experience was on the minds of the activists when the third demand was added to the letter to Emanuel.

Joe Lombardo, the co-chair of UNAC, flew in from Albany, New York to speak at the press conference. He warned that McCarthy's statements "set the stage for violence on the part of the police." He also reported that the Dept. of Justice has inquired about the August 28th meeting called by UNAC and local anti-war activists to form the coalition to lead the protests in the spring. "They're trying to silence our voices, but we won't be silenced."

At the end of the press conference, Pat Hunt of Chicago Area Code Pink and Chicago Area Peace Action presented the letter to an aide to the mayor, and informed the woman that she would be getting a phone call in one week to learn the administration's response. "This is only the beginning of our fight," Hunt declared to cheers from the group.