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Women against NATO

One feature of anti-NATO activities planned here is the presence of several women leaders who have notable records of directly confronting war-makers, of “speaking truth to power,” sometimes at significant personal risk.

In addition to their own stories, they offer valuable perspectives on the crucial issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan.  That’s also the subject of a Shadow Summit for Afghan Women’s Rights being held by Amnesty International at the Swissotel, 325 E. Wacker, on Sunday, May 20, the opening day of the NATO summit – where, Amnesty notes, Afghan women won’t be represented, though their interests will be seriously impacted.

Kathy Kelly, Malalai Joya, and Medea Benjamin are each speaking at the People’s Summit, Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13, at 500 W. Cermak (schedule here) and at the No to NATO rally Sunday, May 20 at noon in Grant Park.

Kathy Kelly

Born and raised on Chicago’s Southwest Side, Kathy Kelly became an anti-war activist through the Uptown Catholic Worker House in the late 1970s.  She’s been arrested in peace actions over 60 times and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, once by Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire.  She co-founded Voices in the Wilderness in 1995, which sent medical supplies to Iraq in defiance of the U.S. embargo.

With VITW and its successor, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, founded in 2005, Kelly has travelled countless times to war zones; she was in Baghdad for the U.S. invasion in 2003, Lebanon during the 2006 invasion, and Gaza during the Israeli attack in 2008; she and her colleagues have visited Iraq and Afghanistan extensively.

“We try to live in poor neighborhoods, alongside people who can’t escape the war zones, and listen to ordinary people whose voices are never heard,” she said.  She frequently reports on the experiences and views of the people she lives among.  She talks about the 250 Afghan children dying of starvation every day, while the U.S. spends $2 billion a week on the war.

“She’s an inspirational leader,” said Rev. Bob Bossie, who co-founded VITW and is now retired. “She’s radically committed to nonviolence.”  VCVN “is known across the country as an organization that’s not sitting on its heels, that’s taking risks in a nonviolent way to say we won’t be compliant, we will speak out again and again and stand with the people who are being oppressed,” he said.

The group “challenges us all to see what we more can do – what next step can I take,” he said.  “We can’t all go to war zones, but we can all do more.”

The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan is “very misleading,” Kellly said.  “It’s simply not true.  The Joint Special Operations forces, the most intimidating and fearsome warriors on the planet, will remain till 2024 and beyond.

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Covering protests

The Chicago Headline Club offers a workshop for journalists covering the NATO protests on how to report safely — and what to do if you’re arrested.  It’s Saturday, May 12, 9 a.m. to non. Loyola Law Center, 25 East Pearson Room 105.  It’s $10 for Headline Club members, $20 for nonmembers.

For a little background, here’s Monroe Anderson’s post on “having the dubious distinction of being one of the first journalists to be beaten by Chicago police in 1968.”

Chicago: This year’s Madison?

Will Chicago, Illinois, be this year’s Madison, Wisconsin?

That’s the question at one workshop taking place Saturday afternoon as part of a huge national conference of labor activists at the O’Hare Crowne Plaza.

A 2 p.m. workshop on Chicago labor asks: “Will Rahm Emanuel be this year’s Scott Walker? His game plan for public sector unions is right out of the austerity playbook, but a growing number of Chicago unions are standing up to Mayor 1%. Are we shaping up for a showdown?”

Panelists include leaders from unions representing teachers, city workers, letter carriers, and nurses, along with a community activist fighting mental health clinic closings.

It’s one of dozens of workshops that will be attended by 1,500 rank-and-file activists and leaders at the national conference of Labor Notes, a magazine that’s advocated labor democracy and militancy for over 30 years.

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Chicago Spring

A May Day march and rally by Occupy Chicago on Tuesday launches the final weeks of the Chicago Spring, culminating with protests at the NATO summit later this month.

With the theme of immigrant, labor, and youth solidarity, an array of community groups and unions will rally at noon (Tuesday, May 1) at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph, and march to the Federal Plaza, Adams and Dearborn.

Though it continues a recent Chicago tradition of immigrant rights marches on May Day going back to 2006, it was initiated by Occupy Chicago, and in particular the group’s labor committee, said Orlando Sepulvida of Occupy the Barrio.  Strong union involvement in the march is the result of interest on the part of rank-and-file union members participating in Occupy, he said.

“After six years, [the issue of immigration reform] is not resolved, and in some ways it is worse now for undocumented families,” said Sepulvida, who has been involved in the marches going back to 2006.

Questions about whether Occupy Chicago would last out its first winter were answered when an estimated 1,000 people participated in an April 7 “Freedom Festival” in Grant Park, with teach-ins on topics including non-violent direct action, the “black bloc,” NATO, and “Mayor 1 Percent’s Budget of Austerity.”

Moving to indoor quarters allowed the group to hold a steady series of educational events and strengthen a network of working committees, according to Mark Cassello at Indignant Left.  Chicago Spring and the NATO protest are making Chicago “the national hub of the Occupy movement this spring,” Costello writes.

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Protestors offered Daley Plaza permit

A California activist who holds a city permit for a rally at Daley Plaza on May 20 has offered to step aside for a local anti-war coalition, organizers say.

The city rejected a permit application from the Coalition Against NATO/G8 to move their rally and march from May 19 – when the G8 summit was originally scheduled to meet – to May 20, when NATO will be convening at McCormick Place, saying someone else has a permit for the Daley Plaza that day.

But CANG8 has heard from the individual holding the permit that she would step aside to accommodate the coalition’s plan, Joe Iosbaker said.  He said the city has been informed of this development.

The city rejected CANG8’s plan for a march from the Daley Plaza to McCormick Place, offering an alternative route that Iosbaker said was unacceptable because  it’s far less visible.  He said city’s argument that it lacks manpower to police the original route is “absurd.”



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