As part of their Week Without Capitalism leading to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit that begins Sunday, 100 members of the anti-war Catholic Workers movement occupied Chicago’s One Prudential Plaza, the building housing President Obama’s campaign headquarters, on Monday. Eight were arrested, including three from Des Moines — Frank Cordaro, Julie Brown, and Jessica Reznicek — who have also all been regularly involved with Iowa’s Occupy movement.
Cordaro has been arrested more than 200 times in acts of civil disobedience since 1977, when he protested the 32nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki at the Pentagon. Before one of his more recent arrests, outside the Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines during the Occupy Iowa Caucus protests, he told me, “Whatever the message is, we’re coming after the president. He betrayed us.”
Occupiers in Chicago are protesting the corrupting influence of corporations on government. But a big part of Obama’s betrayal, as activists see it, is the United States and NATO intervention in countries like Afghanistan and Libya, and the civilian toll and legal implications of the president’s drone war. (That’s just scratching the surface — take a look at this list of grievances from Chicago Indymedia’s Chris Geovanis, for instance.)
Originally, the G8 economic summit was also scheduled to be in Chicago starting Friday, but in March the White House abruptly relocated it to Camp David in Maryland. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden claimed the move “was really about the president looking for a more informal setting with these close partners.” But in the past few months Chicago (whose mayor is former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel) has spent $1 million on riot gear for police officers and their horses in anticipation of widespread protests.
Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs and David Goodner, two Catholic Workers from Des Moines protesting in Chicago who avoided arrest Monday, are chronicling the week’s events at their blog, From Plato to NATO. If Monday’s protest “is any indication, a direct action street protest model of confrontational nonviolence that enhances both local campaigns and national social movements is emerging that could predict how the rest of the week will play out on the ground in the Windy City,” they wrote.
Next Monday, during the second and final day of the NATO summit, Occupy Chicago-allied activists hope to shut down the international headquarters of warplane manufacturer Boeing. The company’s security director has issued warnings that protesters will be “destructive,” set on fulfilling their mission at all costs.