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NATO summit demonstrations peaceful despite terrorism charges

May 19, 2012|By Dalina Castellanos
(AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh )

On the day three men were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism at President Obama's campaign headquarters and other Chicago-area sites, protests on the first day of the NATO summit on Saturday have been vigorous and noisy but largely peaceful.

Frequent updates from the Chicago Tribune website show that about 30 people came out in support of the three men arrested Wednesday on suspicion of planning to hit President Obama's campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house and police stations with Molotov cocktails.

Brian Church, 22, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H., and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Massachusetts, were being held on $1.5-million bail each, Chicago Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton told the Los Angeles Times Saturday.

The National Lawyers Guild, which is representing the men, said they were NATO protesters with equipment for making beer, not bombs, in the apartment where they were staying, the Tribune reported.

In another part of town, about 200 people canvassed Emanuel's neighborhood to protest mental health clinic closures before marching past his house, Stratton said.

Demonstrators shared their personal stories and reasons for protesting. Diane Adams, 56, said she received counseling and medication after trying to commit suicide after her son was murdered in 2005, the Tribune reported.

The mental health care center where she received treatment is now closed, and she urged the crowd to contact the mayor and local aldermen to demand that funding be restored.

"You can find money for everything else but not mental health?" the Tribune reported Adams as saying. "We're the ones that need it. We're not here to upset nobody. We're here to fight for what we deserve."

Chicago police on Saturday arrested 14 people in protest-related incidents, mostly cases of civil disobedience. Stratton characterized them as voluntary arrests. 

"Our officers have been preparing for this event for 11 months and we’ve been planning for all scenarios. We have helped facilitate peaceful protests while being intolerant of criminal behavior," Stratton said.

The marches remained peaceful throughout Saturday afternoon. More protests are planned for Sunday.

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