NATO representatives will meet with members of the largest anti-NATO protest group next week for an unprecedented one-hour public debate, NBC Chicago has exclusively learned.
Word of the strategic gesture toward the protesters came Wednesday afternoon from NATO's secretary-general following his meeting with the president at the White House.
"Our public diplomacy people are reaching out to these groups," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "They will organize some meetings where there will be a possibility to exchange views."
The event will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 17 at -- in a bit of irony -- the Pritzker Military Library.
"We get to have a public forum where we are able to convince our fellow residents of this city just how bad and nasty an institution NATO is," said Andy Thayer, an organizer of the Coalition Against the NATO / G8 War & Poverty Agenda.
Thayer and other protesters take issue with the money spent on NATO operations and its occupations in sovereign lands, and he said he hopes the public demonstrations and next week's dialogue will enlighten more people to NATO's actions.
"I would argue that most people in this country, when they get to know the facts about what NATO is ... and what NATO does to places like Afghanistan, they would agree that this is not something that should be supported, that our city should not be supporting the NATO Summit," Thayer said.
During "Chicago Week" at NATO Headquarters in Brussels in March, there may have been a preview of how NATO representatives will respond.
Upon being told of the protest slogan that "NATO is the war machine of the one percent," U.S. Ambassador Ivo Daalder rejected the notion, saying he believes NATO's true mission is sometimes misunderstood.
"I wouldn't regard NATO as a war machine for any percent," he said at the time. "What NATO is is an organization that brings together 28 countries."
The summit is May 20 and 21.