Stores and businesses closed. Windows were boarded up. Visiting NATO dignitaries (the objects of the protest, to be sure) were warned not to wear suits or corporate attire while strolling around downtown. In a surrealistic version of nostalgia for 1968, the Chicago Establishment worked itself into a defensive frenzy over the prospect of anti-war demonstrators on the streets.
The Occupy movement, after a wildly successful autumn followed by a long, frustrating winter, sought to protest NATO’s continuing war in Afghanistan with massive rallies. However, as it turned out, the largest demonstration numbered in the thousands — perhaps 10 thousand people – rather than the hordes that were unrealistically expected. Moreover, the vast majority of marchers were entirely peaceful, led by Veterans Against The Wars who symbolically returned their medals and spoke movingly of how they felt that their blood had been sacrificed in vain these last ten years.
Chicago police, though, felt that the presence of no more than a hundred more radical “Black Bloc” anarchists was enough to trigger a full-scale melee of swinging billy clubs. Several dozen protesters were hit, bleeding, and scores arrested. It seemed self-fulfilling theater – for both sides – rather than any true expression of either crowd control or popular agitation. But the injuries are real.