Attend the big protest for peace at 12 noon Sunday in Grant Park
Petrillo Bandshell ~ Jackson & Columbus
Don't Let Them Intimidate You From Exercising Your Rights!
GLN permalink 5-18-2012
A serious attack on the civil rights of every person in Chicago is currently under way.
It is an attack which should disgust every thinking Chicagoan for its brazenness and the fact that it's coming from the highest reaches of government.
The run up to the May 20-21 NATO summit has seen an effort by some to spread unnecessary fear of violence. The intention of this fear-mongering is to scare people from exercising the right to protest, a fundamental enshrined in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's proposal to reopen the long-shuttered Joliet Prison for mass protest arrestees is simply the most bone-headed idea in a series of dumb and irresponsible statements from people whose years on this planet should have made them adults.
The federal government's announcement of a "Red Zone" of troops in battle gear, to be deployed in the south Loop beginning a few days before the summit falls into this same category. So does the Red Cross sending out a mass email about putting the City of Milwaukee on alert for the possible evacuation of Chicago, as reported by CBS News.
Some, like former police superintendent David Hilliard's firm, Hillard Heintze -- armed with a juicy "security" contract from the City -- have a direct financial interest in spreading this fear. With security spending in the U.S. doubled since 2001, useless and often counter-productive "security" has become one of the few growth industries in a stagnant economy.
We've seen this script play out before. Under the notorious government COINTELPRO program of the 1960s and 70s, police and FBI operatives would infiltrate civil rights and anti-war organizations and, finding nothing that could justify surveillance let alone repression, would invent and/or actively encourage violence and other illegal actions so as to legitimize government violence, and their own salaries.
Looking closer to today, any serious look at the "poster child" for alleged protester violence, the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, shows that the police were the main cause of the violence.
Don't take my word for it. Seattle's own former chief of police, Norm Stamper, has said so, repeatedly. He took to task not just the actions of rank-and-file officers, he targeted his own decision-making as being the primary cause of the violence.
And juries of our peers have agreed with Stamper's assessment, repeatedly. That city paid out $1.8 million to WTO protesters due to the violence and other misconduct of its police officers. The City of Washington paid out $22 million to protesters and bystanders due to police violence and other misconduct during two protests in 2000 and 2002. The City of Los Angeles paid out close to $12.85 million for a police attack on a 2007 May Day rally. There are several other multimillion dollar hits that cities across the nation have taken for police misconduct during demonstrations, including of course Chicago, which in February agreed to pay $6.2 million to Iraq War demonstrators, on top of millions in attorneys' fees.
As an organizer of what looks like will be the largest protest during Chicago's NATO summit, on Sunday, May 20th beginning in Grant Park, I've been asked dozens upon dozens of times by reporters as to whether or not there will be protester violence. The questions have taken on a tone of "When will you stop beating your spouse?"
I'm astounded at the one-sided absurdity of these questions coming in a town with such an international reputation for police violence, and I'm not just talking about the Kerner Commission's derision of what it called the "police riot" during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Have any of these same reporters asked Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy similar questions about violence from the police? After all, he was in a high ranking position in the New York City police department during that city's 2008 Republican National Convention, an event after which the city paid out $8.1 million to protesters and their attorneys.
Beyond the demonizing of protesters, there is a far more sinister agenda at work here -- the wars abroad are having a hugely corrosive effect on what remains of democracy at home.
When I was a young man, it seemed that every other year there was a new U.S. war, with period of peace interspersed, lasting at least several months, if not a few years. But now, young people are growing up in a country at permanent war, waged by administrations both Republican and Democratic, with no end in sight. Indeed the "peace president" Obama has greatly escalated George Bush's wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, earning him the approving epithet, "warrior president," from a New York Times columnist, who remarked that he is "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades."
With these wars abroad has come a full-scale war on civil liberties, with only a few comparable precedents in American history. Those other assaults on civil liberties came, not incoincidentally, during other wars abroad the Korean /Cold wars and the repression of the McCarthy era, World War One and the mass arrests and deportations of dissidents, World War Two and the mass detention of Japanese Americans, the Vietnam War and the aforementioned COINTELPRO dirty tricks.
Fear-mongering was a central element of each of these previous eras of attacks on people's rights, and today we're seeing much the same thing.
Responsible Chicagoans need to demand of our mayor and President Obama, why did you bring NATO to Chicago if you truly thought that actions around it might necessitate measures as drastic as the evacuation of our city? Why not hold it in a rural location rather than the third most populous (and hence difficult to evacuate) city in the nation? If you really think this is a credible threat, how could you be so irresponsible as to bring NATO to Chicago - a summit that no one in this city, aside from the two of you, asked for?
But that's not what's really going on here.
This is hype and fear-mongering. It is an attempt to intimidate people from asking questions of their government, let alone demonstrating against it. As such, it is a reprehensible attack on the 1st Amendment of our Constitution. Chicagoans should be disgusted with the conduct of both our mayor and our president.
Tom Paine famously remarked that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Put more crudely, the 1st Amendment is a "use it or lose it" proposition.
If you are angry at America's longest ever war, that is killing and maiming Afghans and Americans alike, if you are angry at the insane military spending that is robbing us of a host of social services that many other countries enjoy as a matter of course, then you need to protest against NATO, which represents some 70% of world military spending.
Do not allow our warrior president and his local allies to intimidate you from exercising one of your fundamental rights as a human being the right to protest government wrongs.
See you in the streets of our city on May 20th!
Andy Thayer is one of the lead organizers of the Sunday, May 20th march against the NATO summit, which begins at 12 noon on that day at the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park (near Columbus Drive and Jackson Blvd). More information is available at www.CANG8.org