“The Blister” – a report from 2012’s NATO SUMMIT in Chicago
(ed. find out how you can still support the #NATO3 – here!)
The city is draped in police. The kings of empires are meeting here. The coalition of new age capitalistic imperialism called NATO is here. Alphabet agencies including Homeland Security, Secret Service, FBI, and others were all very present in the downtown districts of Chicago during this week. Chicago police officers and officers from regional agencies, some from as far as two states away, were getting paid overtime to protect everything of capitalistic value in Chicago. It seemed every other block was filled with a line of police in riot suits blocking the street off.
As my right foot is getting bandaged by a street medic, I’m surprised at the complexity of displeasure a simple blister can expound upon me. Yes, a miniscule blister. I sit in a fold out chair on the fifth floor of a corner brick building a few minutes from downtown. Although the elevator in the building doesn’t work, I know it’s the 5th floor from counting the floors of the building next to us from the roof. The roof of this building holds a powerful awe as it juts up high enough to overlook the menacing, empirically lit Chicago skyline and is a sanctuary we sat for a few nights running down the epic ness of the day’s events and mulling over tomorrows schedule.
I now wonder if I even needed to talk to the medic about my simple blister, as I am flustered at the unimportance, especially in the realm of the events. I’m also ultra-aware of the stale scent of my sweaty feet after 3 days of not showering. She respectfully didn’t show any mind as she speaks to me about the incident in Bridgeport that happened a few days prior to the assembling of the 2012 NATO convention.
Her breakdown of the events is like a broken record as I have heard the story already. Nine people were pre-emptively detained, three of whom were charged with terrorism charges (the NATO 3). I was also, we ALL were, super skeptical of the real evidence that the police had against these kids. A video released earlier in the week showed the kids getting pulled over and detained by Chicago PD, who claimed that they were watching them. (This, we know now to be true as the under covers were outted soon after the raid took place.) We also lived out the story back in the Twin Cities when there were a dozen or so sites in Minneapolis and St Paul that were preemptively raided by the FBI the day before the 2008 RNC (Republican National Convention) was to convene. Similar entrapment tactics were used as well, as an undercover created the plan and supplied the so-called weapons, which was all then turned and blamed on the protestors. I ponder if and when a documentary, like ‘Better This World’, which was about the setup during the RNC case, will be made about these boys being framed while she continues venting.
She finally takes a break in the story and rubs her thick creamy pink thumb and pointer finger over her right wrist band that looks like years old leather. She’s got thick farm bones and rosy cheeks with shoulder length hair. She lets out a frustrated sigh.
“They fucked up my medic band,” she says with a look that makes me instantly think that she was worn down already. Yet in reality, she is probably just feeling the extreme effects of mid-May in the Midwest, and/or steaming in frustration over the abuses of power that are continual and ever apparent. She has already been there with her medic bag to help when the situations went awry, which they already had.
I jerk my chair forward to get my foot in better position on her lap. She continues to breathe deeply and I stay super conscious of the fragrance that my baby powdered-up foot is emanating. Yet, our conversation goes on and on with her deep breathing through her nose and a reaction is never seen. Sometimes the little things have no effect on people. Some are oblivious, but undoubtedly she, as well as most of us, was enthralled with the bigger picture.
We sit in a fixed up media room with wires and cords seamlessly integrating the 15 or so computers and monitors recently set up by volunteers to tell the real tales of the 2012 NATO protests. The few who installed this genius mock media room were from various places throughout the globe and put their lives on hold to cover the events that were unfolding in Chicago. The media room beamed out live streams of the protests and daily news clips and was equipped with a central control table with large monitors and a nerded-out computer to manage the live-streaming and video rendering. The main moderator and office manager of the media room was slick talking Xavi from Detroit, he stayed busy controlling the dozens of live feed camera streams relaying NATO Indy Media’s realities onto the World Wide Web.
Xavi filled the room with his aroma, the scent of a vegan’s house after dinner has been cooked, a blend of a few days old garlic, onion, and natural tobacco. He has dark curly hair and wears thick glasses. He was a professional and was consistent, consistent in finding the best three or four streams to throw on the four-on-one stream. Watching the monitors you can see one event from several and possibly a dozen or so angles. The images from these blood stained streets showed the masses huddling against the elite war mongers of the world and rolling into street standoff after street standoff for several days.
“Yo, check this view out. MAN THAT DUDE is RIGHT THERE, BEAUTIFUL view!” Xavi takes a drink of some water with his left hand and intently watches the battle lines roll throughout Chicago’s “Loop” with his right hand on the mouse. At the crosswalk of Michigan and Cermak, sweaty, aggressively violent, clones in robot-like costumes, giving them an immortal feel, are equipped with their famous Chicago billy club, or baton. The billy club became famous in Chicago for its show of power and abuse across peaceful protestors cheeks, foreheads, noses, skulls, and bones during the DNC (Democratic National Convention) in 1968. The NATO 3 kids even posted the video referred to earlier, where in it you can hear a Chicago Police officer saying “He knows, see these guys know ‘68…what’d they say back in ’68?” “Billy club to the fucking skull.”
Facing these billy clubs was the massively battered, yet determined to be heard, swarm of human intellectuals, mothers, fathers, anti-war activists, veterans, and just plain citizens of the Earth. Whether wearing balaclavas covering their face, having sunglasses and a smile, waving a Cascadia flag, a simple black flag, or an American flag; they stare down the bullies who don riot suits, pads, and helmets.
The tantalizing Athena, a natural earthy-looking girl in her early twenties with an all-black bandana around her neck and a beautiful gleaming smile, is in front of the front line of protestors. She uses the three feet of space amidst the adrenaline and testosterone at the front line of the standoff to give each uniform she sees one of her hundreds of small sunflowers.
“You’re sexy. You’re cute. Take off your riot suit. You’re SEXY. You’re CUTE. Take OFF your RIOT suit.”
She continually sings to each blue-suiter behind the mask as the crowd joins with her in unison. She brings light to the mood. She’s a sunny figure with sunflowers. She has scruffy black boots on, short black shorts and a forest green tank top t-shirt to match her light caramel complexion. Any other day these young suits would be tripping over themselves to try to impress this heroine, but today…today there is war in the air. Today they are on separate sides of the dichotomy of the masters versus the peasants. The mere thought of the masters having to humanize their ‘enemy non-violent protestors’ is voided from their training. Xavi stares as intently as the folks on the street, while he enlarges the stream closest to Athena.
The repression is thick as stale smoke in a wind proof cabin. The global war machine is fueled by war dominators that are mere yards (well, maybe a mile) from the action. Tension increases by the second. The sweat beads multiply. The frustration is plastered over us all, just as the overwhelming sun is. The mere thought of standing in some, or better yet, sitting, in some shade is relieving. The robots in their robot suits with helmets and billy clubs are grunting like pigs as they clash their batons on beat against their shield. The bare-chested and even hoodied-up twenty something year olds exemplify the fight as their angry lips pucker and crack from the dryness. I quickly wish that I would’ve wore a hat as I touch my burning head and glance up at the life maker.
Us humans have nothing but passion, empathy, courage, drive, will, and maybe a shield or two. The robots have unlimited power, unlimited resources, and the cattle prods, well actually the batons, shotguns, chemical weapons and the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device). We all know it’s an uphill battle against a force from a Sci-Fi flick. Yet the frontline is ready with a few homemade shields and a million grits of anger and resentment at the atrocities that NATO has been a part of and continues to be. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is a collection of countries that have allied militarily, mainly the USA and the UK. Since its formation in 1949, it has been involved in many military endeavors and is an arm of the U.S. government’s “War on Terror”. The “War on Terror” has unleashed a terror filled reality for the innocent victims of recently war torn countries Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya. Civilian death tolls amounting to hundreds of thousands prove to be an immense reason for this rage that is encapsulating the downtown area of the Windy City.
Just a half hour ago, there were incredibly moving speeches by veterans of the ‘War on Terror’. The soldiers have also been affected by the terror, as over 3,000 NATO troops have perished in the last 12 years. One by one, veterans took the stage and solemnly spoke of the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, and the imperialistic reach of the military. Even veteran Scott Olson, who was saddled with brain damage after being shot in the head with an exploding tear gas canister by a cop during a raid on Occupy Oakland a short six months before this, blessed the crowd with his presence. There were fearless stories of valor, sacrifice, violence, mass killing, cover-ups, friendly fire, depression, suicide, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, corruption, siphoning money from Pentagon, as well heroism. These soldiers were so brave to speak out about their livelihood and past in front of the masses and cameras galore. They then heroically threw their Global ‘War on Terror’ Service Medals in the direction of the NATO meetings and denounced and condemned their involvement in the wars that they were a part of.
This all said; the massive amount of veterans there, the touching speeches, the medals heaving through the air landing on the ground, none of this was the pinnacle of the week yet. No, not at all, not after witnessing some of the harshest baton on head violence throughout the days, not after the raids, not after the 25,000 people stomped through downtown Chicago to reach the stage of these speeches; it wasn’t any of those events.
It was just after the speeches that the whole scene changed. The sun got a tad dimmer from the few clouds in the air, the atmosphere became denser, and the amount of police tripled. There were lines of marching robotic storm troopers cutting the masses into three segments as they beat their batons on their chests. The robots had several commanders throughout this scene and they were all easily identifiable, as they stood out in their pressed white Chicago captain uniforms. The tension peaked.
Media adorned the roofs of the one story adjacent buildings mixed in with a few police. The views captured from the cameras on poles, live streamed from phones, and go-pro’s on helmets, provided immaculately tense and shameful viewing. The lines of people stretched for blocks, yet the police strategically cut the masses apart and focused on the head of the mass to direct its push back.
There was now a colossal amount of police on four different sides that funneled the people that were closest to the frontline into a box. The top of the box is where the stage was and where the robots were blocking the street. At the end of the street behind the top of the box, a mile or so down, sat elite members of NATO, safely, peacefully, nonchalantly convening. Yet, at the point of the standoff, there was long moments of angry yelling, which built up to the boiling point.
Beauty was gone, Athena was gone, the ‘sun’ was gone. Sunflowers sprinkled the concrete in front of the police. The first three rows of the mass of humans, glued together from energetic waves, swayed toward the police line with one big heave of help from the second line. This heave turned into a few heaves. The following scene was a graphic horror show of power and repression as there was no mercy in the swings of the robots. Their arms would crank upwards like picking an apple and slam down on the soft skulls of screaming young women and men with their gleaming batons. The first line got obliterated and the ‘bots seemed happy to oblige in this endeavor as they kept swinging and attacked the next up with people now piling up on each other, heaped over in pain from the blows.
Was the cries screamed by men and women alike. Concerned comrades were picking bloodied people off the pavement and throwing them over their shoulder only to turn around and run into a wall of humans. There was always a pathway created though, as heavy as the thickness was, the medics swooped in and out, and the injured flowed out. Sometimes the injured flowed back in as well, their heads bandaged up like a zombie costume and there they go, pushing people to get back to the front lines. The streets were littered with signs, garbage, and a few shoes left in the pandemonium. The amount of views captured in the media room was incredible as the crowded sound of screams and thuds was muddling over the consistent sway and shake of the streams. A few paint bombs were splattered on the ‘bots and it added an artsy dimension as riot shields became discolored. Several projectiles, like water bottles and sticks, launched at the robots glanced off their masks causing no harm.
The frontline fervor went on for over an hour. Some streams were cutting in and out. The amount of people on that confined block and the push from the force created the uncomfortable, unforgiving, and uncontrollable sway inside of the mass. Xavi is a pro though, so if you weren’t present in Chicago, on the streets of the Loop, you could tune into NATO Indy Media’s live stream and catch all of the action.
All of this happened in the one hour following a march and historic speeches. Dozens were arrested, hundreds were battered, and a multitude of people were sent to the hospital with skull and brain injuries, just because the people had extended their “permitted march” time and were now labeled an “unlawful assembly”. The push back never ceased. The robots cleared the street off like they had planned. Yet throughout the city, deep into the night and into the couple days to follow, mirroring the days before, there was roving pockets of resistance to NATO and the power structure that were showing up and shutting things down, with many stories in themselves. The resistance rages on, across the globe, against the imperialistic agendas of the war profiteers, war criminals, and wars in general as the people awaken to the realities.
The medic finishes wrapping up the bandage covering my foot and sternly tells me “Capitalism is sucking us dry, it is the kryptonite for human kind. It is not sustainable; it is sucking the blood out of Mother Earth. Fossil Fuel capitalism, greed, and corruption all need security; this has led to police protecting all industries and institutions with anything to do with capitalism. The fight we fight is always uphill and will never be won with one battle. More so, each step taken is a step closer to victory. I don’t know you, but we are here together. We must be the change and we must understand that.” Her chair screeches as she pushes it back and throws her tape and scissors back into her kit as I put a fresh pair of socks on.
It was interesting to fret over such a small thing like a simple blister, especially after seeing the events unfold and the unyielding violence on behalf of the police forces. It’s also incredibly hard to muster that those events aren’t even close to the realities of what the victims of the NATO wars and atrocities have to deal with. Although I had a measly blister, it is, however, on my foot. It so happens to be that the foot is an integral body part, as one has to use one’s foot to stand. If you’re not standing for something you have the chance of falling for anything.
Also, if you’re going to be walking for miles countless days in a row, then wear two pairs of socks on your feet to prevent blisters.