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Chicago Police Brutality at NATO Summit

May 21, 2012

What’s stranger:  the fact that police once again clashed with protesters or the fact that said protesters are being criticized are by the media for not providing a “clear message” on which the media can capitalize?

One clash, according to the Associated Press, began when “dozens of protesters in black clothing surged toward a much smaller group of police, throwing objects at them. The badly outnumbered officers fought back with truncheons, and people on both sides threw punches. As police reinforcements moved in, the pack of violent protesters fled,” the AP said.

Another occurred late Sunday afternoon, when protesters who had marched more than two miles from Grant Park to the NATO site pushed against a line of police officers in riot gear. A CNN video showed the officers beating several protesters with batons.

A protester is helped after sustaining an injury at a protest of the NATO summit in Chicago, May 20, 2012. (Nam …

“They charged the cops and they assaulted the officers,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said, according to CNN. “The finger should be pointed at the people who assaulted the cops.”

Earlier on Sunday, two men—24-year-old Sebastian Senakiewicz and 28-year-old Mark Neiweem—were taken into custody accused of planning to use Molotov cocktails during the summit, according to CNN. Their arrests came a day after three activists were accused of a plot to attack the Obama campaign’s Chicago headquarters using the firebombs.

Senakiewicz was charged with falsely making a terrorist threat; Neiweem was charged with attempted possession of explosives or incendiary devices. Bond was set at $750,000 and $500,000, respectively.

Sunday’s arrests “arose from similar investigations” but were otherwise related to Saturday’s arrests, prosecutors said.

Organizers of the protests had initially expected more than 10,000 demonstrators, but that was before the preceding G-8 summit—which had also been scheduled for Chicago—was moved to Camp David in Maryland.

Like the Occupy Wall Street movement, which helped organize Sunday’s rally, the demonstrators protesting NATO in Chicago were criticized for lack of a clear message

The article I just quoted above came from Yahoo and seems to portray the Chicago PD as poor beleaguerd bystanders who just happened to be attacked by roving bands of marauders.  The reality of the video shot from that day tells a different story:

It certainly doesn’t look like the Chicago PD is helpless in this clip.

The SunTimes has a bit of a different view of police procedure, acknowledging the violent edge of the Chicago PD:

A sea of blue-helmeted police officers began violently battling with the protesters just before 5 p.m. The fights stopped and started and stopped for about an hour. A strong flare-up of violence erupted around 5:30 p.m. — just as lightning began flashing to the east as a stormfront moved in.

After an hour of pushing, yelling and aggressive crowd control tactics, police pushed the block of protesters back about 50 yards. Although most of the pushing and shoving had subsided by 6 p.m., a protester could be seen being dragged away by police.

While there was still a hardcore group of protesters refusing to leave and confronting police, other protesters made an effort to get the injured out of the street and urged calm.

Several police wagons were moved in through the crowd.

A police lieutenant could be heard telling a line of officers at about 6:15 p.m.: “Just soft wood — no hard wood,” meaning to stop using batons.

Throughout the clash, dispatchers could be heard on police radios reminding officers they were on live television and should show restraint.

At a press conference at 8 p.m. Sunday, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy choked up when recounting that four officers were hospitalized with injuries, including one who was stabbed in the leg. Several others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Officials did not have an estimate of how many protesters were injured, but many were bloodied and loaded into ambulances. Sunday night, at least one woman who had been arrested could be seen limping into a police station at Belmont and Western; later, someone was taken from the station in an ambulance with a police escort.

The taunting protesters were throwing sticks, bottles and garbage cans at the officers at the intersection — where a mostly peaceful march erupted into violence.

Blows from batons rained down on the front row of the “Black Bloc” protesters, who were screaming at police and pushing forward. As police pushed back, the protesters fell down.

After 5:30 p.m., police called for more cops in riot gear and police on horses to augment the throng of officers already there.

At about the same time, President Barack Obama left McCormick Place, the site of the NATO Summit, to prepare for an evening dinner at Soldier Field. The convention center is less than a half mile from the intersection of Michigan and Cermak. The violence played out about five miles from the president’s home, in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side.

The Chicago mayor has presented an overly polished account of what transpired on Sunday, May 20, 2012 at the NATO summit. Taunting of police officers should not result in violent beatings.  And for those people who say that simply “pushing forward” warrants beatings with batons, consider the fact that the Chicago PD also gave notice that officers should allow protester to move forward, partially to prevent skirmishes with officers.  Part of the problem was caused by police officers pushing the crowd.

It’s an issue of the laws of motion:  when a crowd is moving, it undulates, like a wave, and people will be pushed forward.  Unfortunately, in a wildly stupid panic maneuver, the cops pushed back with batons, assuming erroneously that everyone at the front of the crowd would have meant to push forward.  The people at the front of the crowd may have been pushed from behind, as anyone who has ever stood in a crowd will tell you: if someone pushes or moves behind, you are pushed forward.  Witnesses confirm this:

The melee left protesters bloodied. Police were leading detained protesters away from the melee. Several protesters could be seen wrapped in black cloth to keep their arms at their sides. One man in yellow had a bloody forehead. Blood dripped down another’s face.

At a nearby medic station, at least eight people were being treated for cuts.

Protesters were chanting, “Shame, shame, shame!” at the police and were throwing broken placards, garbage cans and water bottles.

Reporters covering the march were told by police before the blows to clear out. But they were pinned in by the throbbing mob and unable to clear. One reporter emerged covered with somebody else’s blood.

The clash between the Black Bloc marchers and police also involved regular protesters as well who were hemmed in between the police and angry marchers — and had nowhere to go.

Another news source has said that the National Lawyer’s Guild has found cases of police brutality.  The police chief, McCarthy, alternately vindicated for being with his “troops,” as though they were at war with the American protesters, to vilified for endorsing brutal police tactics, has said unsurprisingly that things were “going well.”  Not all seem to agree with him:

While McCarthy said officers behaved admirably in the face of attacks by protesters Sunday, the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild accused police, in a statement, of “indiscriminate violence.”

“Police completely overreacted to protesters approaching the security perimeter and unleashed a violent attack on them without an ability to disperse,” attorney Sarah Gelsomino of the People’s Law Office said in the guild statement.

Protesters suffered serious injuries, including broken bones, busted lips and concussions, she said at a Monday rally. The guild has close to 60 accounts of police brutality, Gelsomino said.

The problem for protesters is that even though cops may tell them to disperse, they can only do so if the people behind them comply.  The protesters on the front lines with the cops can’t move unless they have somewhere to go.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 11:15 pm

    Reblogged this on INDIĜENA GAZETARO REVUO.

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