Solidarity During Wartime in the Streets of Chicago


Photo: Aaron Cynic

Aaron Cynic writes at

My feet are completely blistered, my bones are sore. I’m dehydrated, bruised and beyond exhausted. I’ve spent four days on the streets of Chicago, running through streets and alleys, cameras strapped to my body, frantically trying to take in as much information about the protests surrounding the NATO summit on Sunday and Monday.

For two days, world leaders gathered in Chicago to discuss what tens of thousands of activists described as the world’s largest game of Risk, where the stakes amount to life and death for citizens around the globe.

Some might accuse me of hyperbole, but considering the massive amount of civilian casualties (including women and children) in countries like Libya and Kosovo, bombed by NATO forces, the silent voices of the dead would probably disagree.

For the average Chicago resident, hosting the NATO summit fell short of what Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted in nearly every way. City officials and other higher-ups in the Democratic party heralded the meeting of world leaders as a chance to showcase Chicago as a “world class city,” hoping it would be a boon to the local economy. We were assured of peace in the streets. According to officials, massive security spending will be reimbursed by the federal government, though the city’s coffers remain empty.

The city spent months preparing to host the summits, as did activists both locally and nationally. Thousands bused into town beginning many days before the summit, but Chicago residents had been chattering about them many months prior. Many concerns were over logistics — hosting world leaders means an incredible amount of security which would snarl traffic, make traveling difficult, and shut down business as usual in the city for days.

Between media hype surrounding potential protester violence, resulting in local businesses boarding up their windows (and shutting down completely for a few days, in some cases,) and the logistical inconveniences created, authorities did half the job of protesters for them by effectively shutting down the city. Places often bustling with tourists and traffic were virtual ghost towns, as many people wanted to avoid dealing with the drama a meeting of world leaders who often ignore their subjects creates.

During the months of buildup to the summit, local activists managed to connect NATO to a host of issues which affect the residents of Chicago on a daily basis. Our mayor and city can afford to pay for the 1% to play, but can’t afford to fix our crumbling school system, mental health care system, public transportation and more. Members of various activist groups, including the Mental Health Movement, Stand Up Chicago, Occupy Chicago and many more staged countless marches, rallies, sit ins and occupations.

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2 Comments on "Solidarity During Wartime in the Streets of Chicago"

  1. Tmichela2 | May 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

    samual blantz is the guy who ripped down the nato banner. hes on FB as mord engel. i was locked up with him. plz plz plz help out with bail for him. he needs tog et back home in springfield missouri. i promised himthat i would help get the word out to help him out. im going to set up a fund via paypal or something to help his bail and train ticket. cook county is hell. hes in the psych ward atm, but being transferred to normal population soon. as soon as i set up the account for him please help out. it will only go towards bail and train ticket. anything else left over will be explained and the occupiers should let us know what to do with it. PLEASE help him out. hes a vet from Afghanistan and has been treated like shit ever since he got out (medical leave). please dont let him feel more pain from the US govt. hes felt enough having to kill harm innocent people and doing what the govt wants.

  2. zehRocketeer | May 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm |

    The writer wasn’t exaggerating about the ghost town part. I decided to get up early and bike around downtown before the whole thing started. The whole place was empty. I couldn’t help but think; “this is the calm before the storm, isn’t it?” I couldn’t have been more right.

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