Editorial: What do the protesters want?
Editorials May 17, 2012 8:42PM
To make a statement against the NATO war machine, Occupy Chicago invited environmentally friendly modes of transportation to meet at LaSalle and Jackson for a mass mobilization to the Canadian Consulate at Prudential Plaza, 180 N. Stetson.
- Map: NATO Summit road closures and parking restrictions
- The NATO Summit: Latest news, protests and events
Updated: June 29, 2012 9:41AM
There may be as many worldviews on display in Chicago over the next few days as there will be protesters here for the weekend NATO Summit.
The breadth and reach of protest topics can leave you spinning. Protesters, most organized by Occupy Chicago, already have marched against a long list of societal ills.
On Tuesday, protesters rallied to end the detention of immigrants and then, as evening fell, against police oppression. On Wednesday, protesters called for a one-year moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in Cook County.
Thursday’s protests inched closer to the summit agenda, with demonstrators calling for an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan and unmanned drone strikes, followed by a protest against extracting oil from tar sands deposits in Alberta, Canada (a NATO member).
You following? It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to dismiss the protesters as opportunists — anarchists looking for a stage.
But that would be a mistake.
When you cut through the noise, key themes emerge, themes that should counterbalance the official message world leaders will transmit from the NATO Summit this weekend. These more thoughtful protesters, sometimes overzealous, sometimes too quick to link NATO to every global problem, must be part of the conversation.
And the louder and more focused they are, the more likely they are to make an impact.
Here are some of the more credible themes:
† Out of Afghanistan: NATO is committed to staying in Afghanistan through 2014, with a largely noncombat presence through 2024. Many protesters want an expedited, complete withdrawal (as do some European countries). “Seventy percent of Americans want an end to the war in Afghanistan,” Michael Lynn of Chicago Area Peace Action told us. “We represent them.”
† Spend military dollars at home: A related theme is a call to redirect military spending for domestic priorities. “Instead of funding death and destruction on the other side of the globe, our tax dollars should support services in our community,” said Jackie Spreadbury, of Occupy Chicago . “Our actions will raise to the international stage local battles around housing, education, and health care. We will resist NATO, the military arm of the 1 percent.”
Several groups, including the American Friends Service Committee, are hosting a counter-summit this weekend “to try to envision a “NATO-free world,” Lynn said. The group paints NATO as an overly militarized, empire-building enterprise that has outlived its useful purpose.
† End drone attacks: As the U.S. increasingly relies on remote-controlled drones to kill suspected terrorists, questions have been raised about the practice. There are calls to end it or, at the very least, to release the legal memos authorizing such strikes.
† “Robin Hood tax”: On Friday, a rally led by National Nurses United will promote a “Robin Hood tax,” a small surcharge on each trade of stocks, derivatives or other financial instruments to generate revenue for things such as affordable health care and schools. RoseAnn DeMoro, director of the group, explained the rationale in a recent op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times: “The big banks, investment firms and other financial institutions, which ruined the economy with trillion-dollar trades on people’s homes and pensions and similar reckless gambling, should pay for the recovery.”