On May 20th, 15,000 people from all over the world marched together in Chicago, filling the streets with chants of “Who's the biggest threat in the world today? NATO and the USA!” and “Hey hey ho ho! NATO has got to go!” This mass antiwar rally was the largest of a full week of actions organized in opposition to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Summit held in Chicago May 20th -21st. This summit brought together the leaders of NATO member countries and their allies to discuss expanding colonial wars and occupations around the globe, focusing on their strategy for the continued occupation of Afghanistan.
Although the NATO summit lasted only two days, for over one week tens of thousands of people participated in antiwar events including rallies, teach-ins, film showings, and conferences. People came to Chicago from around the world -- from Canada to Europe, South Asia to Latin America, and from all over the US.
Actions began with the May 12th and 13th “People’s Summit,” organized as a response to the summit of the leaders of colonial powers. Over 800 people attended two-days of workshops and discussions focused on building a world without war and occupation, which were organized by CANG8 (the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda) and Occupy Chicago.
Over the next week there were dozens of rallies and educational events taking place all over Chicago. This included anti-NATO cultural events and musical performances, as well as rallies focusing on imperialist attacks both at home and abroad -- especially recent attacks on democratic and workers rights -- and rallies calling for an end to NATO and war. One of the largest actions was the the “Chicago Rally to Protest Global 1%,” organized by the National Nurses United union on Friday May 18th. It demanded an end to austerity measures and cuts against healthcare and education.
Then on Sunday, May 20th, a historic mass rally of over 15,000 people marched to the NATO summit meeting place organized by CANG8. Banners of all shapes and sizes stretched across some of downtown Chicago's busiest streets; the largest was a giant banner dedicated to US soldier Bradley Manning, the accused Wikileaks whistleblower, which extended over three lanes. Most importantly, the march was led by a contingent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Following the loud and determined march over 50 US Iraq and Afghanistan war Veterans threw their medals back to the NATO war-makers in protest of the lies and deceptions of the war-mongers in Iraq and especially Afghanistan. Vancouver's peace coalition Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) was involved in CANG8 and the organizing of this week of actions from the very beginning. MAWO sent a team of organizers to participate in the week of actions, and to bring the voice of peace-loving people from Canada to the stage in Chicago. The May 20th rally and march had many US and international organizers speaking, including the author of this article along side Reverend Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader and founding member of Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Ann Wright, retired US army reserve colonel and co-founder of Code Pink Women for Peace; Carlos Montes, from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and currently the victim of an FBI frame-up; Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink Women for Peace; Tom Morello from the band Rage Against the Machine; Leah Bolger, President of Veterans for Peace; Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, from the Muslim Peace Coalition and founder of the Muslim Peace Council; Reiner Braun from the ‘No to War No to NATO’ Coalition in Germany; and Kathy Kelly, director of Voices for Creative Non-violence. There was also a statement from Malalai Joya read by women activists from Afghans for Peace, and a very important recorded message from Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist, revolutionary, social justice fighter, and political prisoner in the US.
Inside of the NATO summit Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, lined up with US President Obama in the imperialist strategy to continue the occupation of Afghanistan. Stephen Harper re-enforced Canada's commitment to the so-called training mission in Afghanistan, while at the same time claiming that Canadian troops would not be in Afghanistan beyond 2014. People in Canada have been told this story time and time again, and every time the government of Canada has extended their mission in Afghanistan in an continued effort to get their own piece of the pie as the resources of Afghanistan are divided up between occupying powers.
As imperialist world powers and their allies united at the NATO summit, peace-loving people from all over the world, too, were united. This week of action represented thousands of organizations, groups and coalitions from across the US and all around the world that all united under the common demands for jobs, healthcare, education, pensions, housing and the environment -- not war! No to NATO/G-8 War-makers! No to war and austerity!
In this world of increasing imperialist war and occupation that we live in today, mass actions of people united on the streets is becoming every second more important. The drone attacks, bombings, shootings, targeted assassinations, mass displacement of people, rape, torture and destruction caused by NATO and their allies will not stop until we peace-loving people from all over the world make them stop. In order to stand up against such acts we need more united international actions against war and occupation under one common demand: No to NATO! No to War! No to Occupation!
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