City of Chicago, protesters gear up for upcoming G8, NATO summit

Alexandria Johnson

The Chicago City Council approved ordinances Wednesday that will tighten protest regulations during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Group of Eight (G8) summits scheduled for May 19-21.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed ordinances to regulate hours for public protesting and increase fines for demonstrators resisting arrest.

Occupy Chicago and the Coalition Against NATO/G8 Agenda of War and Poverty (CANG8), along with other union groups, joined forces to challenge the proposed protesting restrictions. On Tuesday, the organizations hosted a press conference before the city’s budget committee meeting where members discussed fine increases.

“The press conference was packed because the issue of our right to protest against NATO’s wars and G8’s poverty agenda … has become a social question in Chicago,” said Joe Iosbaker, a CANG8 activist. “We saw the results of our pressure work when the mayor resubmitted his ordinance proposals to city council, having dropped the most egregious of the features – mainly the doubling of fines for people arrested during protests.”

CANG8 activist Andy Thayer said protesters planned to attend Wednesday’s city council meeting to urge the aldermen not to pass the ordinance.

“I think we made progress, but we still have a long way to go,” Thayer said. “Clearly we made them feel the heat, but there are still nasty, nasty provisions.”

Thayer said the press conference included protesters from many different causes, including immigration rights and education.

“We are quite pleased with the group of people represented ­­- it was a cross-section,” Thayer said.

Iosbaker said Occupy Chicago has joined with CANG8 in recognition of a similar mission.

“They’ve come to understand that NATO means war and G8 means poverty for the 99 percent,” Iosbaker said. “NATO is not just a gathering of the generals from this country but all the generals of the wealthy nations, and the G8 is not just a gathering of the bankers from this country but all the bankers from the wealthy nations. These bankers are the ones responsible for the economic crisis that the world has been in since 2008.”

Emanuel originally proposed a maximum fine of $1000 for resisting or obstructing a police officer, but after Tuesday’s meeting, police superintendent Garry McCarthy recommended instituting a fine range of $25 to $500.

“We think the ordinance should still be defeated,” Iosbaker said.

Northwestern art history Prof. David Van Zanten teaches an art history seminar that requires students to complete a final project revolving around the G8/NATO summits.

He said the project works under the “false presumption” the G8 and NATO leaders will move around Chicago publicly.

Van Zanten said the actual summits will likely result in a section of the city being closed down. The event may resemble the only other American precedent, the 2009 G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, he said.

“They had to more or less get people out of the Pittsburgh area where they were meeting and shut it down,” Van Zanten said. “I’m told they’re meeting on the South Side near McCormick Place and they’re going to draw a cordon around McCormick Place and the public will not be admitted.”

Van Zanten said he hopes his students understand the planning Chicago will need in order to host the G8 and NATO summits.

“I wanted them to get out of it that the center of a city like Chicago is a whole series of different patterns overlaying each other and existing in time,” he said.

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