by Susan Dirr
March 21, 2012
It has been several weeks since Obama announced that the G8 will be meeting at the militarized Camp David, rather than in Chicago. Activists are still ambiguous about the move, even as we publicly declare victory. On one hand, the withdrawal of G8 demonstrates the power of the protestors, and Chicago-area organizers in particular, to kick out this monstrous budget-draining summit. In addition, Mayor Emmanuel ends up looking like a fool, which benefits anyone fighting austerity in Chicago. However, the G8 summit will go on and this time there will be no protestors to interfere with the agenda, or even make a symbolic statement. The 1% are apparently no longer concerned with maintaining the façade of transparency that was created by holding these summits with great fanfare in urban centers. The move to Camp David reveals a level of tactical flexibility that presents a problem for activists who want to confront global power structures and brings into question the continued viability of summit protests. Finally, if the bet pays off and the move to Camp David creates smaller and less militant protests in Chicago than there might otherwise have been, Obama will have avoided a major disruption during election season.
Regardless of how it ultimately stacks up, as activists we will attempt to use the situation to our advantage. While we continue to organize against both NATO and G8, the move to Camp David has encouraged organizers to highlight the reasons to oppose NATO and to draw the connections between the NATO agenda and local austerity measures. Groups across Chicago are fighting to keep our public health clinics open, keep our public schools open, stop cuts of hours and staff in the public libraries, and win fair contracts in locals all over the city. Undoubtedly, the movement against austerity will generate many actions throughout May 2012 which will benefit from the energy brought to the city by the NATO protests.
For their part, the city promises that little will change in the extreme security measures to be imposed upon Chicago residents. In January of this year, Mayor Rahm forced through a bill restricting civil liberties, which we have called “Sit Down and Shut Up,” under the pretence of maintaining order during G8/NATO protests. This bill increases restrictions on protests, increases fines for violating permit ordinances, requires a 1 million dollar insurance coverage for almost all downtown marches, allows the Mayor to sign no-bid contracts related to NATO expenses, and perhaps most disconcerting of all, allows the Chicago Police department to deputize law enforcement from almost any law enforcement agency. This bill and the pre-existing parade ordinance create a maze of regulations that entrap would-be march organizers before they ever make it to the street.
The protests in May will kick off with a joint labor and immigrant rights march on May Day, in the tradition of the large immigrants’ rights mobilizations since 2006. Our goal is to bring together the labor movement and the immigrants’ rights movements through joint planning and action. Shortly thereafter, May 4-6th, grassroots labor activists will gather in Chicago for the annual Labor Notes Conference. Then on May 12-13, the Coalition Against NATO/G8 and Occupy Chicago will host the People’s Summit, bringing together hundreds of people to build an alternative to NATO/G8’s agenda of war and poverty. The large marches against G8/NATO will begin May 18th with a march organized by National Nurses United. The largest rally and march, organized primarily by the Coalition Against NATO and G8, will be held at noon on Sunday May 20th, the first day of the NATO summit. If you are coming in from out of town for the protests, you should plan to at least stay through Sunday evening.
For more information, please see the CANG8 site.