Tensions rise during NATO 3 march
BY KIM JANSSEN, MAUREEN O’DONNELL AND DAVID ROEDER Staff Reporters May 19, 2012 4:18PM
Warning, may contain graphic language.
Updated: May 19, 2012 8:05PM
Two men were apparently arrested Saturday afternoon as police and NATO protest marchers clashed at 18th and Michigan.
Police took the men into custody after officers had stopped protesters in their long trek Saturday afternoon. Marchers eventually turned around in what had been a mostly peaceful event. The reason behind the possible arrests was not immediately clear.
Earlier in the day, several hundred protesters peacefully packed into the plaza at Daley Center Saturday afternoon to decry the separate, unrelated arrests of three men on terrorism charges earlier this week.
While the protesters’ chants were fiery, the protest itself was peaceful. Protesters first met about 3:30 p.m. in the city’s financial district at Jackson and LaSalle and marched north on LaSalle toward the Daley Center.
A heavy police presence was at the Daley Center but did not interfere with the marchers there or throughout their route.
On a lighter note, a bride and groom had their attempts at wedding photos along LaSalle interrupted by the marchers, who cheered the bride as they marched past.
A woman who identified herself as living in the same apartment as the three men arrested earlier this week on terrorism charges blasted the police in her speech to the protesters at Daley Plaza.
“They raided our home to make us afraid,” Zoe Sigman said. “They raided our home, so we couldn’t do the important job we’re doing.”
“I would like everyone to think about how the police are trying to intimidate us.”
When asked about the Molotov cocktails that police said they confiscated from the residence, Sigman said: “It’s utter bull----.”
Supporters of the arrested men have said that only beer making equipment was in the residence.
After the speeches were given, an Occupy Chicago representative asked the crowd to disperse, but many initially milled about. Hundreds later marched north up State, blocking traffic. Police on bicycles tried to control the crowd and prevent protesters from getting hit by cars.
Later on in the march, at Michigan and Lake, police came to assistance of one marcher, who had dropped to the ground and was apparently having a seizure.
Police were halting protesters at Michigan and Congress about 4:45 p.m., and protesters broke into a chant of “Let us march!”
They also started yelling at the police mounted on horses: “Get those animals off those horses!”
After a few minutes — in one of the most tense times of the march — police let the protesters through.
Marchers eventually stopped at 18th and Michigan, and turned around to head back north on Michigan, and eventually made their way over to State, marching north, but the crowd was dissipating.
At 18th and Michigan, a female protester began shouting at a female police officer on a bicycle.
“You look like you’ve got no soul,” the protester shouted.
The officer appeared to shove her bike at her and replied: “Why are you scared? Why are you shaking?”
A commanding officer intervened, the officer moved away, and tensions were defused.
The protesters have questioned why the three men were arrested and questioned the Chicago police’s motives. Authorities, though, have characterized the men — Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly — as dangerous individuals who had targeted various sites in the city, including the Obama campaign headquarters, for violence.
Andy Thayer, one of the key organizers behind the protests, refused to condemn the so-called NATO 3, saying there was a long history of police entrapment when it comes to the protest movement.
“It’s a policy of entrapment,” he said. “They have a history of encouraging people to commit crimes.”