Thousands of demonstrators upset with the war in Afghanistan, climate change and the erosion of union rights marched through downtown Chicago on Sunday, taking their discontent on a wide range of issues to world leaders assembled for a NATO summit.
The protest was to end at the lakeside convention center hosting the two-day meeting, which is focused on the war in Afghanistan, European missile defense and other international security matters.
Some participants called for the dissolution of NATO, the 63-year-old military alliance that is holding its 25th formal meeting in Chicago. It is the first time the gathering has been held in a U.S. city other than Washington.
The march lacks the size and single message that shaped the last major protest moment in Chicago, when nearly half a million people filled the city's downtown in 2006 to protest making it a felony to be an undocumented immigrant.
Janet Rodríguez, protester from Batey Urbano and Latin@ Coalition, protested in the name of Oscar López Rivera. Rivera, according to the National Boricua Human Rights Network, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who's been imprisoned since May 29th, 1981 on charges of conspiracy and minor arms charges.
"He's influenced the Humboldt Park community tremendously and we want him home now,' Rodríguez stated. "It's been 31 years. We are protesting for (his) unjust incarceration...we also want Obama to free Puerto Rico from colonization." Ms. Rodríguez, also president of Latino Alliance at Columbia College in Chicago, believes that solidarity is key in these protests. "We all collaborated for this."
Sunday's protest followed several smaller demonstrations over the previous two days, including a march Saturday to the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said officers would be ready with quick but targeted arrests of any demonstrators who turn violent Sunday.
Security has been tight throughout the city. As police gathered in large numbers on street corners, near parks and landmarks, the city's streets remained largely vacant and many downtown buildings closed.
"It's quite odd to be in Chicago right now," said Kyle Sims, a pastry chef out for a jog near his home. "The presence of so much police is unnerving and a bit frightening."