Home About Us Events News Documents Articles Message Board Links Contact Us

Over 10,000 Protest the War in Chicago, Hundreds Arrested

by Tribune Staff Reporters
Chicago Tribune

Thousands of protestors blocked traffic on Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.

March 21, 2003 - Chicago, IL - Chicago police arrested several hundred anti-war demonstrators who blocked the intersection of Chicago and Michigan avenues tonight during a protest that wound its way north from Federal Plaza in the Loop.

Police spokesman Dave Bayless said those arrested would face mob-action and other misdemeanor charges.

After the packed rally at the plaza ended around 6 p.m., a crowd police initially estimated at 2,500 slowly moved east, pushing the police line block after block. The crowd made its way to Lake Shore Drive, then slowly snaked north.

The crowd grew as it absorbed more protestors and may have reached 10,000, Chief of Patrol Jim Maurer said.

Police officials said later that the only way to control a crowd of that size was to move with it and try to contain it, but not to try to stop it.

Police attempted to keep the march in the northbound lanes of the drive, but once the crowd passed Navy Pier, it overtook the southbound lanes as well, with people weaving in and out of stopped traffic. Several protesters even climbed over cars as they marched.

Some drivers cheered on the protest while others responded with obscene gestures. One woman left her sedan to try to take away an anti-war banner from a teen-ager. The two scuffled briefly until police broke up the confrontation and the woman returned to her car.

Because the crowd became so unruly, police decided to make a firm stand at Michigan and Oak Streets, demanding that the protesters retreat back to Lake Shore Drive. The crowd did turn back at first, but then made another attempt at marching up Michigan Avenue at Chicago Avenue.

It was there that some exchanges between police and protesters became violent, with protesters shoving and police swinging batons. No serious injuries were reported late Thursday.

After the protesters protestors sat down on Chicago Avenue just north of Michigan Avenue, buses rolled up, and police began walking, dragging and carrying protesters from the group and arresting them.

"There is a distinction between a war protest and civil disobedience," Chicago Police spokesman Pat Camden said. "Civil disobedience will not be tolerated."

The police presence didn't deter many demonstrators.

"We have to continue to make our voices heard," said Rachael Perrotta of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism.

"I'm happy all these people are here," said Sabah Salah, a native of Jordan who said she fears for relatives living in Baghdad. "When you see people of Iraq suffering and bombs falling over Baghdad, it makes you sad."

Tonight's demonstration followed a day of protests.

About 200 students from St. Ignatius, Madame Curie and Jones College Preparatory high schools walked out at noon and met at Federal Plaza as about 30 Chicago police officers stood nearby.

Not all of the students were playing hooky. A spokesman for St. Ignatius said its teens had permission from the school and their parents to take off for the day.

The daytime demonstrations were peaceful. At one point, when about 50 students from Jones College Prep walked from the plaza back to the South Loop school to convince more teens to join the rally, police on bicycles accompanied them. The officers stopped traffic so the kids could cross streets safely.

Suburban teens took trains into the city to join the day's protests.

About 70 teenagers walked out of Stevenson High School in north suburban Lincolnshire around 8 a.m. They were the first of hundreds of young people from nearly 30 Chicago-area high schools and colleges who staged walkouts, rallies and other demonstrations today.

Some wore flowers or duct tape headbands, and they cheered when motorists honked at them.

"One, two, three, four, we don't want another war!" students chanted as they walked west along Illinois Highway 22 to Buffalo Grove Road in Buffalo Grove. The John Lennon song "Imagine" played on a boom box.

"This is one day where we're showing Bush and the world that we're concerned about what he's doing in our name," said Soo-Rae Hong, 17, a senior from Long Grove who helped organize the Stevenson walkout.

"We are not unpatriotic," said Hal Gordon, 15, a sophomore from Lincolnshire. "We're supporting the country's democratic and free speech principles. We hope the soldiers come home safely."

In the western suburbs, about 20 students at Hinsdale Central High School gathered this morning on the sidewalk along 55th Street holding signs reading, "Bush is a bully," "Love not war" and "Honk 4 peace."

While many motorists did honk, the teens said they heard an equal amount of jeers.

"We've been getting all kinds of hand signals," said Caleb Catalano, 18, a senior from Clarendon Hills. "Any reaction is better than no reaction."

Hinsdale Principal James Ferguson said the students were considered truant and could face detention or suspension, depending on their individual records.

"I would have a lot more respect for the protest if it was on Saturday morning," he said.

In Lombard, about 100 students left Glenbard East High School. They wore black T-shirts with the word, "Peace," beat drums and chanted "No war" as they marched to a Metra commuter rail station.

Dozens of students walked out about 10:30 a.m. at Lane Technical High School in Chicago. They chanted peace slogans as they marched around the school's North Side campus.

Though several protests went off as scheduled, a "die-in" planned for noon at the University of Chicago was scrapped due to a lack of interest. Organizers said many students had started spring break or were studying for final exams this week. They also said the outbreak of fighting itself might have taken the wind out of the sails of the anti-war movement.

"I hoped people would make a little effort to come out," said a disappointed Jerrin Zumberg, a 21-year-old student from Michigan. Other students continued to solicit signed messages on an anti-war banner as a nearby radio broadcast the latest news from the Middle East.

Organizers with the Iraq Peace Pledge, an umbrella organizing group, said they did not expect major acts of civil disobedience to begin until Friday. One of their members has promised to "gum up the works" downtown and at other high-profile locations around the city.

Chicago police have said they respect the groups' right to protest, but anyone who defaces property or disrupts traffic or regular business will be subject to arrest, as well as civil lawsuits by the city. Police watched the Federal Plaza rally from perches on horseback while a satellite truck beamed live images to police headquarters.

Tribune staff reporters Christine Tatum, Ben Estes, Jill Blackman, Oscar Avila, Sean D. Hamill, David Heinzmann, Mike Menichini, and Stephen Rynkiewicz, City News Service reporter Brendan McNulty, freelance writer Gene Kuleta, CLTV and WGN-Ch. 9 contributed to this story.

Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune

The original document or additional information can be found at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-030320protests,0,5986715.story?coll=chi%2Dnews%2Dhed.

|| Home || About Us || Events || News || Documents || Articles || Message Board || Links || Contact Us ||