PI Original Matthew Blake Thursday May 10th, 2012, 4:47pm

Occupy Chicago Outlines NATO Protests (VIDEO)

Occupy Chicago says thousands of protesters will go to Chicago next week before the city hosts the NATO summit, May 20 and 21. While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel views the summit as raising Chicago’s profile, Occupy thinks the event will call attention to their concerns and invigorate the Occupy Wall Street movement that started last fall.

Occupy Chicago says thousands of protesters will go to Chicago next week before the city hosts the NATO summit, May 20 and 21. While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel views the summit as raising Chicago’s profile, Occupy thinks the event will call attention to their concerns and invigorate the Occupy Wall Street movement that started last fall.

“The Occupy movement is not dwindling – the Occupy movement is growing,” said Rachael Perrota, at a press conference today at Occupy Chicago headquarters, located in a warehouse in the Pilsen neighborhood. Perrota says that Occupy protesters will arrive in buses from across the country.

There is no solid estimate on how many protesters will show up – Occupy Chicago member Zoe Sigman estimated anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 people – and how they will affect a city that is already partly shutting down.

Protesters are concerned about an array of issues, with only a few planned events directly in protest of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military alliance of North American and European countries. While demonstrators are protesting against national and international political issues, their immediate conflicts might be with the city of Chicago regarding the legality of their demonstrations.

Occupy Chicago plans ten straight “Days of Action” that start this Saturday and end May 21. (A complete look at these actions is on the Occupy Chicago web site).

These include a “People’s Summit” scheduled for this weekend followed by actions all week that focus on specific issues – education funding, immigrant detention, foreclosures, and the environment. Friday, the National Nurses United will hold a rally against growing economic inequality.

A march to the McCormick Place convention center Sunday, where most of the NATO summit will take place, will focus on NATO-related issues, specifically the alliance’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Aaron Hughes, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, called today for a full military withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan. Hughes said that Iraq veterans would symbolically return their medals of honor during the Sunday protest, as a signal of their opposition toward the Afghanistan War.

Protesters acknowledged that some of the upcoming actions were planned in anticipation of the G8 economic summit, which is happening simultaneous to NATO. President Barack Obama announced in March the summit would relocate from Chicago to the Camp David presidential retreat.

“We decided not to cancel our event when G8 decided to hide in Camp David,” Rodolfo says.

Perrotta of Occupy Chicago asserts that the planned protests are directly relevant to NATO. “While it might seem like a bunch of disparate issues, it all falls under the heading, ‘Money for social services, not for war,’” Perrotta says.

The substance of the protests might be overshadowed by how their actions affect Chicago’s downtown area.

Already, Lake Shore Drive, parts of Interstate 55 and many roads around McCormick Place will close for the summit. Three major museums will also close for three days, and some downtown businesses will shut down.

The main NATO protest Sunday, organized by the Coalition Against the NATO and G8 War and Poverty Agenda, received clearance from the city and U.S. Secret Service to march from the Petrillo band shell to McCormick Place.

The National Nurses United protest set for Friday is in limbo. The city wants the rally at the Petrillo band shell instead of Daley Plaza, and the nurses have until the end of today to accept the city’s terms or, possibly, file a legal challenge.

The group’s attorney Harvey Grossman, of the Illinois ACLU, declined to comment on the situation this afternoon.

Meanwhile, additional protests did not go through the permit process. “Occupy Chicago believes that the first amendment is our permit,” Perrotta says.

Also, there are likely to be actions that do not fit neatly into the plans of the city or protest groups.

For example, Sigman mentioned a plan to occupy Boeing’s downtown Chicago corporate headquarters May 21. But it is not clear what an occupation will mean, and if protesters will target additional corporations. “This is all still being planned,” Sigman says.

Here's full video of the press conference, courtesy of CAN-TV:

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