CHICAGO (CBS) - Activists planning anti-NATO protests, marches, concerts and counter-summits gathered Thursday at the headquarters of Occupy Chicago to discuss a week's worth of events leading up to the NATO summit on May 20 and 21.
WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports, with the permit hassles protesters have been having with city officials, protest organizer Andy Thayer said he's looking for some presidential intervention.
"This president has got to say to Rahm Emanuel, 'Cut the hell out, guarantee people's First Amendment rights in the city of Chicago," Thayer said. "In terms of public convergence, the last time I checked, the First Amendment had not been annulled in the city of Chicago, and so people should feel free to walk the streets."
Occupy Chicago representative Rachael Perrotta said the First Amendment is the only permit the group needs to stage protests, so the group won't be seeking any permits for their events protesting the NATO summit. The only event they're involved in that has applied for a city permit is the largest protest, which was organized by several protest groups, set to coincide with the opening day of the summit.
CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports, starting this Sunday, Occupy Chicago will join forces with the Anti-Nato Coalition to stage a weeklong series of demonstrations and forums, addressing issues ranging from foreclosures to immigration reform, and from education to the environment.
From May 18 to May 20, organizers plan to stage a so-called "barefoot summit" at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park a kind of Chicago Woodstock with local bands, poetry readings, and speeches.
David Myers, a representative of the barefoot summit said, "It is basically a love letter from the people of Chicago to the world."
Anti-war veterans will lead the biggest event, a protest march and rally on May 20, the opening day of the summit. Those veterans will end the march at McCormick Place by throwing away their war medals.
Protesters said they are still talking with security officials about providing a stage and sound system for that rally, but they've already made one concession: only the veterans' medals ceremony will happen at the end of the march. There will be no other speakers.
Organizers cited peaceful protests on May Day and earlier in the spring as serving as practice runs for the much bigger NATO demonstrations, and they downplayed concerns about disruptions sparked by outsiders coming to Chicago to cause trouble.
Joe Iosbaker, with the Coalition Against NATO/G8, said, "I'm sure the protests during the workdays will be smaller, and remember ... 8 out of of 10 people who march and protest next week are going to have 606 zip codes. These are Chicagoans, overwhelmingly."
That's why organizers are pleading with local sympathizers not to be put off by fears of disorder.
"We expect huge crowds, and huge crowds will happen as long as Chicago comes out and doesn't believe the fear-mongering of the mayor to join us in standing up for our rights to peace, and a world without foreign wars," Perrotta said.
The final protest rally they are planning is to shut down Boeing's headquarters, located at 100 N. Riverside Plaza, on the last day of the summit on Monday, May 21. Occupy Chicago says Boeing is a war criminal that plays a major role in the NATO war machine.
"The Boeing Corporation is one of the biggest producers of military war machines in the nation, and they're also one of the sponsors of the NATO summit in Chicago," said Occupy Chicago member Zoe Sigman.
Poking fun at rumors that downtown Chicago workers have been told to wear casual clothing around the time of the summit, to avoid being targeted by protesters, peace activist Michael McConnell wore a suit to Thursday's meeting.
"I wore a suit today because I hear that the downtown Chicago workers are being told not to wear suits and camouflage themselves as protesters," he said. "My advice to the local office workers is don't ditch the suits, ditch your job and join us. ... Come be a protester. Don't just dress like one, actually be one."
McConnell, regional director of the peace group American Friends Service Committee, said NATO is no longer living up to its original mission of providing collective defense to its member nations.
"The NATO alliance has now turned offensive, aggressive and interventionist," McConnell said.
On the Friday before the summit, National Nurses United is planning a rally from the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers - where the president will stay during the summit - to downtown Chicago for a protest rally and a performance by musician Tom Morello, the guitarist for the band Rage Against The Machine. That protest was originally planned to coincide with the G8 summit, which has been moved to Camp David.
The nurses originally wanted to hold their rally in Daley Plaza, but after booking Morello and a major advertisement push for the rally, city officials believed the event would be much larger than the original estimate of 1,000 people and forced the group to change the rally's location to Grant Park.