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Anti-NATO protesters clash with Chicago police; arrests reported

May 20, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • Police clash with demonstrators during the NATO summit in Chicago.
Police clash with demonstrators during the NATO summit in Chicago. (Joshua Lott / Getty Images )

Anti-NATO protestors clashed with riot police in Chicago on Sunday afternoon when some demonstrators refused to leave an intersection they had occupied.

It’s not immediately clear how the clashes around Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road began. After some military veterans threw away their medals in a protest before 5 p.m., demonstrators were told they could leave on buses parked to the west. A WGN-TV reporter said black-clad anarchists chanted, “Don’t move west” and “Shut down NATO.”

The foreign dignitaries were meeting at McCormick Place, a few blocks away and out of sight of the disturbance.

Live footage showed protesters throwing bottles and pieces of plastic at a phalanx of blue-helmeted police, who had partially circled a crowd of what appeared to be several hundred and urged them to disperse. Those who didn't go were pushed with billy clubs, like cross-checking hockey players.

Multiple sources tweeted photos of head and face wounds among the protesters, some of whom wore Guy Fawkes masks or black bandannas over their features.

Protesters set up an ad-hoc field hospital in an alleyway near the clashes, where police allowed them to treat their own injured.

The clashes came in waves as police cleared the street in increments. Police at one point donned gas masks as they began to push protesters west down Cermak Road.

Freelance journalist J.A. Myerson reported seeing police officers giving each other earplugs — presumably to prepare for possible use of the LRAD, a sound cannon designed to disperse crowds.

The Chicago Tribune reported that police announced in both Spanish and English that they might use water, sound or other anti-riot measures to disperse protesters.

Police made multiple arrests — many one-by-one as the police retook Cermak Road — but no total was immediately available.

Independent journalist John Knefel, who was at the veterans' protest before the clashes began, tweeted, “Over 30 vets returning medals by throwing them in the street. Lots of Palestinian & Manning solidarity.” That was a reference to Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is charged with leaking a trove of classified documents to Wikileaks.

 “If I want to continue to live with integrity, I must get rid of this,” said Erica Sloan of Ohio, who said she served in the U.S. Air Force, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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