By KAITLYN LAABS
Officials estimate between 5,000 to 10,000 activists from more than a dozen countries will descend upon Chicago to protest the NATO summit. But what do we actually know about these protests and the people who plan on attending them?
WHO are the protestors?
The majority of protestors will be members of Occupy Wall Street movements around the country or part of several umbrella organizations specifically formed to demonstrate at the NATO summit.
Occupy chapters from San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., New York and Chicago have all pledged to coordinate and attend NATO protests in Chicago. In Europe, the No to NATO Coalition formed recently to assist foreign protestors as they make the trek to Chicago; this organization has bases in Germany, France and Great Britain.
Umbrella organizations such as the People’s Summit, Resist NATO and CANG8 (Coalition Against NATO and G8) are also working to coordinate out of state protestors.
Andy Thayer, lead organizer for CANG8, says his organization is looking to bring together people from around the globe who are upset about economic disparities and the way “government is ripping us all off.”
“The summit presents us with a unique opportunity to push back against the one percent,” Thayer said. “We are able to voice our concerns at a time when the whole world will be watching.”
HOW are they organizing?
Social media and e-mail have become the integral—perhaps almost the sole —means of communication for NATO protestors.
“The fear of infiltration from police and city officials is keeping most of the organizing online instead of out in the open,” said Loren McGrail, a pastor with the Protest Chaplain of Chicago, a consortium of religious leaders organizing non-violent protests around the summit. “We’re really making use of digital technology and other mechanisms to get the word out.”
Facebook groups have popped up around the globe to organize ride shares, travel plans and housing arrangements for protestors at the summit. Groups like Occupy Chicago have been meeting weekly to discuss NATO protests; but they are revealing the information in short bursts through Twitter and selective e-mail blasts.
Umbrella organizations like Resist NATO and CANG8 are collaborating on the official Chicago protest website, natoprotest.org, to keep demonstrators up to date on events happening before, during and after the summit.
WHY are they protesting?
“People are coming for very different reasons, with very different goals in mind,” said Occupy Chicago member and retired veteran Elliot Adams. “I think everyone is mainly concerned about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and how the Obama administration has handled international affairs.”
Many international activists are coming to protest the use of trade agreements and the WTO’s involvement in the global economy, especially amid the economic crisis in Greece.
On the environmental side, protestors say they want to raise awareness about the ways in which the G-8 has “protected” nuclear and General Electric companies. These activists feel that the G-8 has allowed such companies to continue operating despite costs to the environment due to the financial benefits they provide.
When it comes to technology, people are protesting the G-8’s policies surrounding cyber conflict, centered on Wikileaks and file sharing.
“These leaders are attempting to militarize the Internet,” Thayer said. “It’s a huge attack on our freedom.”
Ultimately, protest groups are also looking to challenge the Obama administration and its policies on international spending.
“You can’t have a country that spends as much on its military as the rest of the world combined and at the same time can’t provide its own people with the social services they so urgently need,” Thayer said.
Occupy Chicago has planned a “Week of Action” leading up to the NATO summit. The official city-permitted NATO protests are to begin at midnight on May 18.
For more information on NATO protests, visit natoprotest.org.
MELISSA KANDEL contributed to this report.