Kate Harnedy writes at Diatribe Media:
I was born and raised in Chicago, and lived here twenty-five years. The past four years, I have been away from my city, lead by my camera to have and document new life experiences. I traveled throughout the west coast and lived in rural Oregon, which included a couple years of communal living. Even while working in a small café/bookstore in rural Oregon, people would often comment on my accent, and knew I was a Chicagoan.
On hearing Chicago would host the NATO/G8 summits this year, I decided I had work to do back home. I needed to get back in touch with people who were connected to what was happening in preparation for the summits, and I contacted an old friend, Aaron Cynic. We met at Columbia College Chicago, during the 2003 Iraq war protests, so I knew he would be active on the ground in Chicago. As expected, he knew other independent videographers, photographers, writers, and live streamers. When I got into town we met for the May Day protest and made plans to assemble a team of indy journalists to work together documenting the summit protests.
Congratulations for subversively preventing free speech and the right to peacefully assemble
It was apparent Chicago was already on NATO alert, and the police department had some of its new toys out for May Day, such as the highly publicized and controversial LRAD device. In the leadup to the NATO summit, the city transitioned into total lockdown. As early as May 1, uniformed officers in battle dress, carrying weapons, secured federal buildings in the loop. The “Red Zone,” an area under the full authority of the Federal Protective Services near McCormick Place started to resemble a fortress.
For months, the city had been doing what it could to make it difficult for protest groups to obtain and keep permits. Stories about draconian laws being passed, new police equipment obtained, and military training exercises conducted flooded the airwaves. City officials pulled a permit obtained by Nurses United for a march and rally, then later compromised on it, so long as the rally remained stationary. Columbia College, along with Roosevelt University and DePaul were pressured to end their semesters earlier this year so they would not be in session during the summits. It seemed pretty convenient for the city to have the loop absent of thousands of college students who might have gotten involved in the summit protests.
Leading up to the summits, fear-mongering by the city in conjunction with the media reached new lows. Business people were advised “to dress down” and “not wear suits” because they would be targeted by protesters. People who lived in condo buildings around the south loop were advised to leave town for the weekend. Many businesses closed, and news stations showed footage of shops boarding up their windows. The National Guard was on call, and even more startling, Milwaukee Red Cross was told to prepare for a possible evacuation of Chicago.
Such propaganda greatly affects the average citizen. People were afraid to go downtown to protest, observe, or go about other business. The City of Chicago, media, and the federal government pooled their resources to scare American citizens from peacefully assembling. In a supposed free and democratic society, are congratulations in order for subversively preventing free speech and the right to peacefully assemble?
As the protests began the week before the summit, things became even more surreal.
Helicopters circled the city constantly. Some news organizations reported spotting surveillance drones spotted in the suburbs. Coast Guard and other militarized boats were spotted in the Chicago River. The government had a shoot to kill order for any small non-commercial aircraft that violated a certain amount of airspace near downtown Chicago. Department of Homeland Security Vehicles surrounded the Daley Center.
The first highly publicized case of police harassment of protestors came about a week before the summit, where a car of three men was pulled over and harassed by Chicago police officers. The officers threatened to hunt them down during the upcoming anti-NATO protests. During the stop, officers can be heard making light of police brutality when one says, “What did they say in ’68? Billy club to the fucking skull.” He then revises his comment to “Okay, now we’ll beat your white ass.” One of the men turned on his cell phone camera and got some video and audio of the entire altercation, which ended with an ominous “We’ll come look for you, each and every one of you.”
The authorities held true to their promise, and this time, they brought lots of friends.
On Wednesday, May 16th in the late evening, Chicago police raided a Bridgeport apartment building without a warrant. They unlawfully detained, searched, and questioned potential NATO protesters living in the building. Eight were taken into custody. Items seized by police included beer making supplies and a cell phone. Recent reports show that although one apartment was targeted, neighbors in the building were also detained, questioned, searched and harassed by police, called “commie faggots” and had their apartments searched without warrants or consent. After nearly two hours being handcuffed and harassed in their own homes, the neighbors eventually received an apology for being what police called “collateral damage.”
Five of the eight arrested were detained and released, but three men remained in police custody, the same who were pulled over days before: Brent Betterly, Jared Chase and Brian Church. The National Lawyers Guild was infuriated by the handling of the case, and the fact that they were not given access to their clients until the morning of the first hearing. Reports also indicated that the men were held in solitary confinement. NLG with Occupy Chicago are working hard to protect these young men in a case where “innocent until proven guilty” seems to have been forgotten. Yet a high-profie “terrorism” case was just what was needed to justify the expensive militarization of Chicago.
Two others were arrested known as “Mo” and “Gloves” in the Bridgeport raid. It was soon discovered they were two undercover police informants who had been involved with Occupy Chicago a few weeks. They also had ties to two other arrests, Mark Neiweem, “Migs,” and Sebastian Senakiewicz, “Sabi.” Occupy Chicago members, who had worked with these two thinking they were fellow activists, went into a panic thinking they could also be targeted with accusations.
According to the mainstream narrative, this raid produced three “terrorist” suspects. Before the large protests even began, this produced more fear and justification for the city to come down hard on activists, and an excuse for the massive spending and police presence at the protests.
Along with our team and other independent journalists, the demonstrations surrounding the summit were well attended by mainstream media. Our team worked diligently Thursday May 17 through Monday May 20 documenting the events at every action we attended. I will speak now to some of the oppression and media misrepresentation we witnessed that should be of great concern.
The march of many kettles
After the well-attended “Healthcare Not Warfare” March to Rahm Emanuals house on Saturday, May 19, we regrouped after a quick meal and upload session. Aaron, John and I headed back to the loop for the Anti-Capitalist march, which began at the Haymarket Square, quite a symbolic location. As we exited the train and did equipment check before continuing on, nearby police shot us hard looks. I found it strange, but we had too much to do to pay it much attention at the time. We hit the march, heavily flanked by police on both sides. Soon after caught up with the march, police kettled the crowd at a dead end street. There was anxiety and confusion between the out-of-towners who were unfamiliar with the city, and with the entire crowd attempting to head in different directions, not knowing where to go next. We found ourselves boxed in, and people became very tense. Thankfully, police lines opened up to the east, and the march continued for some time until reaching the loop.
Read the full post at Diatribe Media.