Chicago braces for final day of Nato protests

 

Chicago braced for more demonstrations today, with protesters vowing to
march to the Boeing headquarters a day after clashes outside the Nato summit.

Many downtown businesses have told their employees to stay at home during the second and final day of the summit — where world leaders are discussing the war in Afghanistan, European missile defence and other security issues — because of traffic snarls and the possibility of more protests.

More than two dozen Metra rail stations along a line that carries around 14,000 riders in from the southern suburbs on most weekdays will be closed and stations and platforms patrolled by a larger contingent of law enforcement personnel and K-9 units. The Chicago Transit Authority will have to reroute 24 buses through the summit zone.

Organisers with the Occupy Chicago movement planned to gather at a West Side park at 9am, and an hour later march toward the Boeing building along the Chicago River in the city's business district. Occupy claims the multi-billion-dollar aerospace company avoids paying taxes because it produces airplanes for the US military.

Later, immigration rights activists will gather at the same park before boarding a bus to travel to the small village of Crete, about 35 miles south of Chicago, where federal officials are considering building a nearly 800-bed detention facility for illegal immigrants slated for deportation.

Andy Thayer, one of the main anti-NATO protest organisers, said he expected many demonstrators from out of town to leave Sunday night.

But he said a strong contingent of protesters still will show up for the Boeing protest this morning and decried how city leaders and police officials have handled the protests.

"I am disgusted, particularly, with the upper echelon of our city," Thayer said.

Yesterday, several thousand protesters marched through downtown Chicago in one of the largest demonstrations in the city in years, airing grievances about war, climate change, economic inequality and a range of other complaints as world leaders assembled for the Nato summit.

But the diversity of opinions also sowed doubts about whether there were too many messages to be effective.

Some of the most enduring images of that protest were from a clash between a small group of demonstrators and a thick line of police who tried to keep them from the lakeside convention centre where President Barack Obama is hosting the summit.

The protesters tried to move east toward McCormick Place, with some hurling sticks and bottles at police. Officers responded by swinging their batons. The two sides were locked in a standoff for two hours, with police blocking the protesters' path and the crowd refusing to leave.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said 45 of those protesters were arrested. Police said four officers were hurt, including one who was stabbed in the leg. Some protesters had blood streaming down their faces.

Hundreds of protesters gathered late last night near the Art Institute of Chicago as first lady Michelle Obama hosted a dinner for spouses of Nato leaders inside. At least 100 Chicago police officers in riot gear were also at the scene.

The protests lacked the size and single message that shaped the last major protest moment in Chicago in 2006, when nearly half a million people filled the city's downtown to protest making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant.

AP

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