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Protesters need to see ‘The Other NATO’

Updated: June 29, 2012 9:16AM

Most of the young people who show up to Chicago to protest the NATO summit won’t have to worry about a get-out-of-jail card.

Like the song says: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

Chicago cops aren’t about to go to war with some hyped-up young people who curse at them and hurl objects at their gear.

That doesn’t mean keeping their cool will be an easy feat. So hopefully the bandana guys won’t take things too far.

After all, 3,100 officers will be in full riot gear in Chicago’s unpredictable weather. Many of these officers will be working an extra shift, especially if the local thugs decide to take advantage of the city’s strained resources.

Hopefully most protest groups will use the NATO Summit as a backdrop for their efforts to make the world a more peaceful and just place.

For instance, the Counter-Summit for Peace & Economic Justice will present 28 workshops designed to map out an alternative path to war. On May 18-19, the group will gather at the People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence, for its own summit.

And on Thursday at 11 a.m., the Rev. Paul Jakes is urging NATO delegates to join his group for a tour of West Side neighborhoods that will leave from 531 N. Kedzie.

The tour is being billed as “The Other NATO.” In this instance, NATO stands for “Neglected, Abandoned and Totally Overlooked.”

“In two weeks, there were approximately 42 shootings that took place in this city,” Jakes pointed out. “There is no way they are going to have enough officers to cover the communities. We want to know what gives. Are you just going to give us rookies and take the experienced police out of our neighborhood and leave us unprotected?”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is well aware that the surge in homicides in several predominantly black communities has opened him up to criticism about his priorities. So it’s no coincidence that he announced his “wraparound” crime strategy practically on the eve of the NATO Summit.

His plan to saturate neighborhoods with social services that are plagued by gang and drug activity sounds great. Other services include clearing vacant lots, cutting weeds, removing graffiti, repairing streetlights and potholes.

But it does make you wonder.

Why should it take the scourge of gang-bangers and drug dealers for residents to get services that should be commonplace?

Despite the hassles, the NATO Summit offers the opportunity for local protesters to organize around issues of social equality.

And, really, what better place to do that than in Chicago.

This is where the former police commander Jon Burge and his crew got away with torturing dozens of suspects until they gave up false confessions; the city where young children are gunned down while sitting on their porches and sleeping in their beds.

And the city where the drug trade is flourishing.

As well-meaning as the mayor’s “wraparound” crime strategy might be, you can’t put a dent in the drug trade until you greatly reduce the number of users and the number of people who are willing to risk going to jail.

Right now, the city is not making much progress on either front.

“There are too many young men unemployed, and it creates great unrest and violence in our community,” Jakes told me. “We can’t stand idly by and not meet and organize with those that are receiving the best of treatment downtown. We don’t want them to overlook us. This is our city, and we demand to be protected and not neglected.”

Obviously the NATO Summit will provide a cover for professional protesters who are itching to confront police authority.

But America’s failed “War on Drugs” and the damage it has caused communities is something real protesters can and should be outraged about.

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