The two faces of NATO: PR spin versus video reality
Growing body of videos and eyewitness accounts in wake of NATO summit exposes vast police violence to defend military arm of 1%. See videos below.
May 22, 2012
While the Obama and Emanuel administrations are congratulating themselves on a public relations coup, NATO protesters are documenting the wave of police violence unleashed on them in recent days -- particularly Sunday, when protesters sought to exercise a right they thought they had but didn't: to speak truth to power.
City and federal officials have doggedly stuck to the spin about a dangerous band of 'anarchists' who started trouble on Sunday. But it's clear from the videos below -- and dozens more that have begun to surface on the web -- that the only thugs in black on May 20 were the police. And the police unloaded, narrowly missing 75-year-old peace protester Nan Wigmore, who was caught in the crush at the front line of the police violence.
The harrowing scenes in the first two videos below, shot by Substance News contributor John Kugler, show police hammering on protesters with billy clubs and their hands, feet and bodies. Protesters clearly shout "There's nowhere to go!" as the police line wails on them to push them away from the intersection of Cermak and Michigan. The protesters' goal? To take their opposition to NATO to the summit itself -- a goal denied by the protest 'permit' which the City of Chicago and the Obama administration ultimately 'granted.' That permit failed to meet even the minimum request of some organizers to be within 'site and sound' of the government bureaucrats' deliberations.
Chicagoan John Whitfield spoke with his neighbor, Substance News reporter and videographer John Kugler, who shot the video of the police assault -- and was attacked himself by the police. Cops struck Kugler, who was wisely wearing a helmet, four times on the head; Kugler also lost a shoe in the assault.
"Everything was fine until riot police kettled protesters and created chaos," wrote Kugler in his Substance account.
"It was clear that the confrontation was planned," he goes on. "And when the police penned in a group of protesters at the corner of Cermak and Michigan, things became very difficult very fast. The violence escalated, as the videos show."
"John has always referred to the police as our brothers and sisters, since they are also union members," wrote Whitfield on Chicago Indymedia of the police assault. "Kugler is a union activist himself, and a city-wide coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU leadership is furious about this having happened. Sad, that my neighbor was clubbed four times by a cop that lost it, as he is a great neighbor also, wanting to organize the neighborhood as well, to make for a healthier community for our youth to grow up in."
Rod Estvan was also at the protest. He provided this comment in the Substance article: "The Sun Times report ... contains this reference to the Block or Bloc: 'Some wore helmets and body armor and carried anarchist black and red flags on hefty wooden poles; others brandished trash can lids fashioned into shields.' I saw zero members of that group in body armor, but I did see a good number of police in full body armor with shields. There were members of the Block with helmets on, but then there were reporters carrying riot helmets too, including a reporter for NBC 5 who was next to me when we got to the end of the march route. I saw no use of the Block's flag poles to attack anyone."
Kugler has also joined a growing chorus of voices that put the lie to the police meme that the Black Bloc was responsible for Sunday's violence.
"I was there," he writes. "Contrary to what the Sun-Times has reported, Black block did not escalate — it was Chicago police who pushed into the crowd."
One of the people caught in the fray at the front lines was 75-year-old Nan Wigmore (@gramnanpdx)), who was taken away by police, but apparently not arrested. She also reportedly vigorously opposed being removed by police from the line, as she wanted to stay to stand in solidarity with the kids getting clubbed. Before Sunday's protest, she told U.S. News she was ready to give her life to protest. "I’m a woman walking with a sign, period … I’m following the heroics, the courage of generations back really, you know, we’re just continuing what was going on."
On Monday, the great-grandmother and Occupy Portland supporter rolled her walker to Boeing headquarters in the west loop for a protest to oppose the corporate giant's vast profiteering as a key profiteer in the U.S. military industrial complex -- then marched with protesters to Obama campaign headquarters to protest the police violence the day before.
Just as Wigmore continued to stand with the young people who came to Chicago to oppose NATO, Kugler had high praise for those kids on the line Sunday -- and harsh words for the authorities.
"What I saw was the Black Bloc was restrained until they were challenged and threatened by the police." he wrote in Substance. "I have pictures and video of the entire march, and it was clear that the police created the conditions that ended in violence. I have video evidence of the entire incident and eyewitness to police brutality. There were many protesters who got severely injured because they did not come prepared to get their heads busted by police batons. There is no excuse for hitting anyone that was unarmed lying on the ground."
The third video below, shot by Indymedia videographers working out of the Chicago Independent Media Convergence Center as part of a national effort to provide alternative coverage of the NATO protests, also extensively documents the police violence and the injuries they inflicted on protesters.
That rampant, calculated police violence has not deterred people like Kugler. "When the shit hits the fan, there is only one side to be on," he wrote in his Substance piece. "I am proud to have been on the side that showed and proved police violence against First Amendment rights."
0:28 "They're just busting fuckers up there." | 0:32 "They got us surrrounded." | 1:07 Hands raised in defense/peace. | 1:17 "We've nowhere to go!" | 1:30 Hands raised in defense/peace.
0:22 "No cops! No riot!" | 0:52"Medic!" | 1:18 "Let the old lady through!" | 1:33 "Let the old lady through! She has no way out!" | 1:42 The cops grab the "old lady" -- Nan Wigmore
Yet more video tape documenting the police violence.
Photo: Chris Geovanis, Chicago Indymedia
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