Chicago braces for last day of large NATO protests
CHICAGO (AP) -- Demonstrators launched another round of protests Monday in the final hours of the NATO summit, marching through an unusually quiet downtown to the headquarters of Boeing and President Barack Obama's campaign.
On the second and last day of the international meeting, the demonstrations in the Loop were notably smaller and less confrontational than the weekend protests that drew thousands into the Chicago streets.
Outside Boeing Co.'s headquarters, a relatively small crowd of protesters gathered in the street. Some released red and black balloons and confetti or blew bubbles. Others staged a "die-in," lying on the ground as if dead.
Boeing's building was largely deserted Monday because it was among many Chicago companies that told workers to stay home because of the risk of traffic snarls and more protests.
In a statement, protesters seized on that as a victory: "Our call to action shut down the Boeing war machine."
Occupy Chicago contends tax breaks for the aircraft manufacturer have deprived the state of millions of dollars. The group also objects to Boeing's role in producing military hardware for the U.S. and its NATO allies.
Illinois leaders see such tax incentives as a way to attract large companies that bring thousands of jobs.
Targeting Boeing Co.'s Chicago office makes symbolic sense: The company is a major defense contractor that makes fighter jets, bombs and missiles.
But the Chicago office is just the headquarters for a much larger operation. The company employs more than 170,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries. Illinois doesn't even rank in the top eight states in terms of the number of Boeing employees.
Demonstrator Kevin Murphy said he was disappointed with what he called a small and disorganized protest movement. He doubted protesters would change the minds of any of the world leaders at the summit.
Murphy, a farmer from Beaver Dam, Wis., who was marching to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan, said he did not agree with protesters who had clashed with police. Others, he said, were too young to know "what they are talking about."
"Instead of doing this, they should just vote," he said.
By mid-afternoon, the protesters were gathered near the building housing Obama's campaign headquarters, listening to speeches shouted through megaphones.
Immigration-rights activists had also planned to go to the small village of Crete, about 35 miles south of Chicago, where federal officials are considering building an 800-bed detention facility for illegal immigrants slated for deportation.
Sunday's protest march was one of the city's largest in years, with thousands of people airing grievances about war, climate change, economic inequality and a wide range of other complaints.
Chicago officials said no more than 2,200 protesters participated in Sunday's march. But demonstrators insisted their numbers were being underestimated. Organizers of the procession down Michigan Avenue said 15,000 people took part.
Some of the most lasting images of that march were likely to be from a clash at the end, when a small group of demonstrators tried to push beyond a line of police blocking access to the site where world leaders were discussing the war in Afghanistan, European missile defense and other security issues.
Some protesters hurled sticks and bottles at police. Officers responded by swinging their batons. The two sides were locked in a standoff for two hours.
Forty-five protesters were arrested and four officers were hurt, including one who was stabbed in the leg, police said.