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NATO protests unlikely to be as quiet as May Day

A protester photographs Chicago police officers bicycles Chicago Board Trade building during May Day march W. JacksBlvd. Tuesday May 1

A protester photographs Chicago police officers on bicycles at the Chicago Board of Trade building during a May Day march on W. Jackson Blvd. Tuesday, May 1, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 4, 2012 11:49AM

Even though the May Day rally Tuesday had 1,000 to 1,500 protesters demonstrating peacefully in the Loop, organizers said don’t expect the same for the NATO summit.

“That’s because yesterday’s was not a civil disobedience demonstration,” said Jorge Mujica of the Mexican American Coalition.

A lead organizer among the 75 diverse groups that in February formed the May Day Organizing Committee, Mujica said the groups drew the line against any potential violence because of the expected attendance by undocumented immigrants.

“We made it pretty clear we didn’t want arrests that could lead to deportations, so we asked everyone to restrain and not cause problems,” he said. “There will be plenty of opportunities at NATO where whoever wants to, can get arrested.”

Tuesday’s marchers railed against everything from deportations to racism, from the housing crisis and failing schools to high unemployment and corporate greed.

Police said marchers conducted the protests without incident, and on Wednesday the brass credited its rank and file for seeing the protests through without adverse action — even during the more pointed protests held at Loop banks by committee member Occupy Chicago.

“All the training that we’ve been putting forth thus far actually paid off,” said First Deputy Police Supt. Al Wysinger when asked lessons learned from May Day.

“[Officers] out there yesterday...were very patient. They were very professional and they did a fantastic job, as far as getting the marchers to where we wanted them to go in an orderly fashion,” he said. “We didn’t have one single arrest.”

Organizers hope police show the same restraint during NATO protests planned by many of the same groups and others, under the umbrella name, the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda, said Occupy Chicago spokesman Andy Thayer.

“The history of the summits has been that the overwhelming majority of what violence does occur has been by the police themselves,” asserted Thayer.

Either way, organizers said, no one should expect NATO protests without incident.

“Some groups you can expect will go beyond simple demonstration, but not our immigration groups,” said Carlos Arango of committee member Casa Aztlan in Pilsen.

Agreeing was Emma Moreno of Teamsters Local 743, another committee member.

“I think you’ll see one part of the protests will be very strong and hard, where you can expect violence from the police, and there will be another part that will be very peaceful too, something strong, but with responsibility,” Moreno said.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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