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Up to 1,000 march through Loop, clash with cops

Protesters march Saturday night Halsted Harrison. | JSall~Sun-Times

Protesters march Saturday night at Halsted and Harrison. | Jon Sall~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 20, 2012 8:41AM

As many as 1,000 protesters marched through the Loop Saturday night as they protested NATO, taunted police and blocked traffic on normally busy streets.

“Basically we want to disrupt business as usual on all fronts,” said one woman who was marching, while dressed in black and refused to identify herself.

They were met by large contingents of police officers, some in riot gear, and others on bikes, who generally let the demonstrators remain in the streets.

At one point, a police van with sirens flashing drove down the middle of Jackson, forcing the marchers to disperse. A protester jumped on the front fender of the van, then got off, and someone screamed, “They hit him! They hit him!”

Before 10 p.m. an ambulance arrived and took away someone in a wheel chair.

Friends said it was Jack Amico, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., who had been active in Occupy Wall Street.

Lauren DiGioia, 27, Amico’s girlfriend, said he was hit after “the police van started coming straight at us. It was moving slowly at first, and people in the crowd were trying to form a soft block to stop it from running people over. ... The van accelerated when it got by me. It started speeding up. As soon as it went past me I turned and Jack was lying on the ground. He’d just been hit.”

DiGioia wasn’t allowed to go see him yet at Northwestern Hospital, where he was being treated, but she said he should be okay.

“He’s bruised, but it doesn’t look like there are any critical injuries,” she said. Northwestern security supervisor Patrick McKinley said Amico’s condition was “stable.” McKinley said a policeman was stationed outside his room.

Amico’s friends said they were told Amico was placed under arrest — which was a big surprise.

“Jack’s not aggressive or loud. He’s actually a really good, sweet guy,” said one friend, Connor Hicks, of Brooklyn. Amico is “very passionate about the movement.”

At 10:15 p.m., Supt. Garry McCarthy said he wasn’t sure what happened in the incident, but said the van was swarmed.

“We need to know what the heck happened,” he said.

“The van was being attacked, if you will,” he said. “It has a slashed tire.”

McCarthy also said officers were targeted throughout the day.

“We got hit with batteries. We got hit with bottles, stuff like that.”

The police news affairs office said early Sunday that since the major protests began Friday, there had been 18 NATO-related arrests, not including three men arrested Wednesday on terrorism charges. The 18 were arrested largely on misdemeanors, they said.

McCarthy said there had been “about six” arrests on Saturday.

Clashes between police and protesters continued throughout the night.

At 8:30 p.m. near Wabash and Balbo, police in riot gear carried a woman to a waiting police van. A man was taken as well, but few details were available.

That came after a crowd — possibly numbering more than 1,000 — had marched down State Street and eventually ended up on Balbo, where they were greeted by police in riot gear backed by police on horseback. The police then relented and let them march North on Michigan.

The mayor’s office said the crowd was between 750 and 1,000 at its peak.

Back, in the financial district, some protesters dressed in all black grabbed orange plastic barriers and dragged them to the street at LaSalle and Monroe.

The protesters headed to the corner of Jackson and LaSalle, where Occupy Chicago had set up a long running camp last fall.

At one point Saturday night, the driver of a Jeep stuck in the crowd in the middle of LaSalle cranked his stereo in solidarity with the protesters. As he filmed the crowd, members took video of him.

Others members of the crowd stood on garbage cans looking around.

Meanwhile, three dozen Illinois State Police officers in riot gear with batons in hand positioned themselves in front of the Daley Center.

Shortly after 11 p.m., the 100 remaining marchers — at Cermak and Jefferson at the time — said they were disbanding. They said they were tired and ready for a bigger series of protests Sunday.

Contributing: Mitch Dudek, Rich Hein, John Kim, Michael Lansu

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