Chicago braces for last day of large NATO protests

As the NATO summit winds down, protests continue as commuters deal with heightened security in downtown Chicago

Published May 21, 2012 5:27PM (EDT)

CHICAGO (AP) — Demonstrators launched another round of protests Monday in the final hours of the NATO summit, targeting Boeing headquarters and a suburban community that could become the site of a detention facility to hold illegal immigrants.

On the second and last day of the international meeting, the demonstrations were notably smaller than weekend protests that drew thousands into the streets.

Outside Boeing Co.'s headquarters, a relatively small crowd of protesters gathered in the street. Some released red and black balloons and confetti or blew bubbles. Others staged a "die-in," lying on the ground as if dead.

An orange barricade blocked off the building's entrances, and dozens of police officers stood guard. A police boat idled in the nearby Chicago River.

Occupy Chicago contends tax breaks for the aircraft manufacturer have deprived the state of millions of dollars. The group also objects to Boeing's role in producing military hardware for the U.S. and its NATO allies.

Illinois leaders see such tax incentives as a way to attract large companies that bring thousands of jobs.

Targeting Boeing Co.'s Chicago office makes symbolic sense: The company is a major defense contractor that makes fighter jets, bombs and missiles.

But the Chicago office is just the headquarters for a much larger operation. The company employs more than 170,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries. Illinois doesn't even rank in the top eight states in terms of the number of Boeing employees.

Boeing's building was largely deserted Monday because it was among many Chicago companies that told workers to stay home because of the risk of traffic snarls and more protests.

In a statement, protesters seized on that as a victory: "Our call to action shut down the Boeing war machine."

After the Boeing demonstration, immigration-rights activists planned to go to the small village of Crete, about 35 miles south of Chicago, where federal officials are considering building an 800-bed detention facility for illegal immigrants slated for deportation.

For commuters, the threat of more large protests meant navigating numerous transportation changes and tolerating inconvenient security rules.

More than two dozen rail stations were closed along a line that normally carries 14,000 riders in from the south suburbs. Platforms were being patrolled by a large contingent of law enforcement personnel and K-9 units. The Chicago Transit Authority rerouted 24 buses through a zone that included the lakeside convention center where world leaders were gathered.

On commuter trains, passengers were prohibited from bringing food or liquids — including coffee — and could only carry one bag.

"Now I have to buy my lunch. They are making me spend money," said Pete Dimaggio, a credit manager.

But commuters who did brave their daily trip were finding something unusual: an abundance of seats on trains and buses, a sign that many workers heeded warnings to avoid going to the office.

Sunday's protest march was one of the city's largest in years, with thousands of people airing grievances about war, climate change, economic inequality and a wide range of other complaints. But the diversity of opinions also sowed doubts about whether there were too many messages to be effective.

Some of the most lasting images of that march were likely to be from a clash at the end, when a small group of demonstrators tried to push beyond a line of police blocking access to the site where world leaders were discussing the war in Afghanistan, European missile defense and other security issues.

Some protesters hurled sticks and bottles at police. Officers responded by swinging their batons. The two sides were locked in a standoff for two hours.

Forty-five protesters were arrested and four officers were hurt, including one who was stabbed in the leg, police said.


Associated Press writers Don Babwin, Ryan J. Foley, Carla K. Johnson, Robert Ray, Jim Suhr, Nomaan Merchant and Michael Tarm contributed to this report.

By Associated Press

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