Protesters, diplomats converge as 2012 NATO Summit nears

Protesters, diplomats converge as 20102 NATO Summit nears
by Ashahed M. Muhammad

CHICAGO—Thousands are converging in Chicago for planned protests during the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit to be held this weekend.

Protesters representing all ideological realms have been planning for this summit like it was the Super Bowl, hoping to use it as a worldwide forum to oppose NATO’s global military aggressions and imperialist expansion.

It is the first time this important gathering of diplomats has taken place in an American location other than Washington, D.C. 24 previous NATO Summits have been held, the last one in Lisbon, Portugal in  November 2010.

Originally, the Group of Eight (G8) Summit was also to be held in Chicago on May 18th and 19th, however, Pres. Barack Obama in a surprise move changed the location to Camp David. While the President maintains his decision to change locations was not based on security concerns, the switch caused considerable embarrassment for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Recently, Supt. McCarthy, still in his first year as head of the nation's second largest police force, addressed more than dozens of community leaders at Jewish United Fund's joint Government Affairs/Jewish Community Relations Council luncheon, to discuss security concerns related to the upcoming NATO Summit. Supt. McCarthy, says the Chicago police are ready for the security challenges that lie ahead.

Due to the summit, heavy parking and traffic flow restrictions have been in place and Chicago residents are already bracing for traffic problems that are sure to come, as well as disruptions in the public transportation system, which carries on an average weekday 1.64 million riders to various destinations in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Formed in 1949, NATO has acted as a worldwide security force, however, critics of the organization claim that its noble sounding ideals of “establishing peace” and constant “humanitarian intervention” during conflicts are really euphemisms for a strategy of western-backed imperialist expansion.

NATO has come under criticism for its role in Afghanistan and its role in the military aggression aimed at killing Col. Muammar Gadhafi and destabilizing Libya. According to organizers with the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) coalition, the movement towards war with Iran and military intervention in Syria should be vociferously and vehemently opposed, and they plan to “hit the streets to protest the warmongers at the NATO summit in Chicago.”

Monday morning, eight protesters were arrested after an active mobilization at the ‘Obama for America’ campaign headquarters downtown. Although disparate groups are planning protests all week, the date those groups and law enforcement are focusing on appears to be May 20.

I'll be keeping you up to date with the happenings via Twitter and posting images on Facebook.

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