- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2012

CHICAGO — A group of Occupy protesters barely had enough members to occupy a small corner of Daley Plaza on Saturday as they shouted anti-NATO slogans under the watchful eyes of dozens of police.

About 150 demonstrators marched into the plaza adjacent to City Hall in midafternoon to denounce the U.S. government, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the FBI and Wall Street. They carried signs with slogans such as “LBJ, Nixon, Bush, Obama — Troops home now” and “No cuts, no austerity, tax Wall Street now.”

An organizer holding a bullhorn urged the demonstrators to sit on the plaza in silent tribute to “our brothers and sisters in jail right now” — a reference to the 14 or so protesters arrested by Chicago police at protests earlier in the week.

About 100 groups are in Chicago to demonstrate against the NATO summit that begins Sunday. But the police presence in the city is heavy, with dozens of officers patrolling each block downtown, and many streets are closed. The small demonstration on Saturday was often drowned out by the sound of helicopters overhead and police sirens wailing on the streets.

Charles Weber, 18, an Occupy demonstrator from Nashville, Tenn., said he drove to Chicago to protest drone strikes that have resulted in “the losses of children” in Afghanistan. He said he believed NATO is to blame.

“I can’t blame President Obama,” Mr. Weber said. “He got stuck with a bad situation. More specifically, I’m targeting NATO.”

A man from Chicago who wore a bandana over his face said he was protesting a police raid at an apartment in Chicago in which nine people were arrested. “What the police are doing is wrong,” said the man, who declined to give his name because he said he fears the police.

Police said Saturday that three of the men arrested in the raid are being held on terrorism conspiracy charges stemming from allegations that they tried to make Molotov cocktails ahead of the NATO summit. They were identified as Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Mass.

Their attorney, Sarah Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild, told the Associated Press that the charges were “trumped up.”

The men are “absolutely in shock and have no idea where these charges are coming from,” Ms. Gelsomino said.

While Saturday’s protest was small, demonstrators said there would be thousands on the street Sunday to protest NATO policies.

President Obama is arriving Saturday night in Chicago and will meet Sunday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as NATO members grapple with questions of how to turn over Afghanistan’s security to its own combat troops.



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