At the intersection of Cermak and Michigan streets in Chicago yesterday, veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq told their stories when they threw back their service medals in protest at NATO leaders, echoing a famous protest against the Vietnam War.
A lot of media coming out of Chicago last night focused on street skirmishes between a handful of apolitical adventurists and the Chicago police. But some media got the real story.
Zach LaPorte, a 28-year-old mechanical engineer from Milwaukee who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, said, “I witnessed civilian casualties and civilians being arrested in what I consider an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation,” Reuters reported. Former U.S. Army Sergeant Alejandro Villatoro of Chicago, who served during the Iraq 2003 invasion and in Afghanistan in 2011, said: ”There’s no honor in these wars…There’s just shame.”
The local ABC news affiliate in Chicago produced an exemplary story which highlighted the ceremony in which Afghanistan and Iraq veterans threw back their medals, giving veterans the center stage they deserved for telling their stories.
CHICAGO — Chanting “N-A-T-O, NATO has got to go,” rows of veterans marched in formation Sunday leading thousands in an anti-war protest as world leaders gathered here for a two-day NATO summit.
Upon arrival near the convention center where the summit is taking place, one veteran threw his medals on the road, calling them symbols of lies. ”I choose human life over war,” Jerry Bordeleau shouted through a microphone.
Dozens of veterans followed suit, with many dedicating their medals to the children of Afghanistan and Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Bernardine, we wanted to bring in a comment of the Chicago police superintendent, Garry McCarthy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: These are plans—these are comments he made about the department’s plans ahead of NATO protests.
SUPERINTENDENT GARRY McCARTHY: We’ve taken the added steps to train the entire department, to at least a minimal level, to have knowledge of the crowd control procedures that everybody else is getting trained up to a higher level for. Only about a third of the department is going to be used for this event. Those officers are being trained to levels that have been called exceeding the national standards by the people who do this across the country. And the fact is, there’s a three-tiered level that we’re looking at. We are not only going to be ready, we’re going to be more ready than any other city in the country, as per the people who do that training have told us.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy speaking to Chicago Tonight. Bill Ayers, your comments on what the superintendent had to say?
BILL AYERS: Well, what they’re doing and what they’ve been doing for months is to kind of deflect attention from NATO onto the idea that somehow the protests create a threat. They’ve begun to—there’s a mass campaign. They’re shutting Lakeshore Drive. They’re shutting the trains. They’re closing exits off the freeways. And they’re creating a kind of culture of fear. We have police officers we—who are friends of ours, we run into in coffee shops. They’ve told us that the training is focused a lot on the danger of the protesters and how you should be careful when you grab one of them, because they might have some kind of poison spike in their sleeve or something. I mean, it really is quite nuts.
At the same time, they’ve denied permits, taken permits away, given them back, been very vague about making any agreement with the protesters. Bernardine just said we’ve asked—we insist that this is a family-friendly, nonviolent, permitted march. And all the kind of hysteria about what’s about to happen is really brought on by the police. I don’t think anything is going to happen, except that they are creating the conditions for a police riot, once again. They’re creating the conditions for more repression. And this is a very bad thing.
BERNARDINE DOHRN: Yeah, but I want to emphasize that these war games—and where does this money come from? Let’s just ask. How do we have the money to do this when we don’t have the money for basic human needs in Chicago? But, OK, so there’s suddenly, as for all the wars, moneys available. We don’t have budget concerns for any of this permanent militarization. But this is war games at home. This is the war come home. This is national security state.
If you’re heading to Chicago this weekend, prepare yourself with this handy guide.
Know your rights, know what you can do and where you can go, and learn what the police can’t (or shouldn’t) do before you go.
Don’t stand with the global 1 percent. Don’t stand with these generals that continuously abuse their own service members and then talk about building democracy and promoting freedom
A message from veteran Aaron Hughes of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who is returning his service medals at the NATO summit in Chicago this weekend, to the massive police forces that will be there this weekend.