70 reports of police misconduct on Sunday at NATO protest, says National Lawyers Guild

70 reports of police misconduct on Sunday at NATO protest, says National Lawyers Guild

Now that the barricades are cleared from the streets, downtown traffic has resumed its sluggish pace and thousands of workers in the loop no longer have an excuse to take a day off, what is the legacy of the massive Sunday protest that brought out an estimated 15,000 people?

One lasting effect, on both the city and the protesters, is how the Chicago Police Department behaved over the much-hyped weekend.

According to Sarah Gelsomino with the National Lawyers Guild and the People’s Law Office, the NLG received 70 separate claims of police misconduct from Sunday’s events.

“The majority of those incidences are baton strikes to the head and face,” said Gelsomino. “We saw broken collar bones, broken arms, teeth knocked out, heads bashed in, lips busted and a numbers of concussions.”

The National Lawyers Guild says that 100 protesters were arrested altogether over the weekend and during the week of action, with the “vast majority”–60 people–being taken into police custody on Sunday.

A total of 6 protesters were charged with felonies–one for attempting to break through a line of police on bicycles Sunday night.

What actually took place Sunday after the march ended has been highly debated, but the general outline compiled from numerous eyewitness reports goes like this: while the speeches from the main stage were ending, a crowd of ‘black blocers’ began advancing east toward McCormick Place.

As the group started pushing forward, rows of police in riot gear formed a square, with a small outlet at the cross section of Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road. However, also in the crowd, and at points sandwiched between the black bloc and the police, were journalists and marchers who were unable to leave the scene because of the surrounding police presence.

From this reporter’s view, there were at least 30-50 people in the square surrounded by police that were not dressed in black or pushing east towards McCormick Place. Soon after, this reporter saw people being taken out of the crowd with bleeding heads and, in one case, a bleeding eye.

According to a photographer briefly sandwiched between the black bloc and the police, individual officers would reach into the crowd and strike the advancing marchers with their batons without warning. He surmised this as an attempt to intimidate the group and force them to back off.

As the standoff continued, other marchers reported seeing police in riot gear amass a block away and begin to block off the exit west from Michigan Avenue. Several eye witnesses said that the Long Range Acoustic Device was mounted on a pole at this time.

The standoff continued for several hours, with police continuing to bring in reinforcements in full riot gear and marchers, who were north of police but unable to leave because other streets were blocked by riot police, slowly exiting the area.

Gelsomino stressed that the injuries received by protesters showed police brutality, though only the most serious accusations would likely become formal complaints to the CPD.

In response to a photo of one activist bleeding from the head, the Chicago Police Department alleged that the blood was “fake.”

An event that took place Saturday night saw a similarly vast gap between the accounts of protesters on the ground and the official response from the Chicago Police Department.

In the video below, taken on Saturday, May 19th, a police van is seen accelerating into a crowd of protesters.

But what eyewitnesses say is difficult to see is that a man is lying under the van–James Amico, who was later treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a concussion.

In this video, the crowd can be seen calling for street medics to help Amico, who was later interviewed about Saturday night by the Occupied Chicago Tribune.

In response, the CPD Superintendent Gary McCarthy “suggested to reporters that the protester faked the injury,” reported the Chicago Tribune, and said “the officer driving the van was punched and suffered a concussion.”

There was also some confusion over where Amico was taken and what injuries he sustained. In addition to McCarthy denying that Amico was injured, the Guardian was told by Northwestern Memorial Hospital that no one by the name of Amico had been admitted.

But other reports, including in the Chicagoist and from an interview with Amico himself, say that he was treated for a concussion.

The most recent accusations of brutality coincide with The Chicago Reporter’s most recent investigation: “Who’s policing the police?”

Reporter Angela Caputo focused on repeat offenders and found, along with growing legal costs to defend a handful of rogue officers, “glaring evidence that the city’s effort to stem police misconduct is falling short of the mark.”

How these new misconduct and brutality claims will be addressed in the aftermath of the NATO summit weekend may be a telling statement on who’s policing whom.

Photo credit: Sara Goke


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  • It sounds like they didn't behave very well.

  • Now, how many CREDIBLE complaints were there against officers? ZERO! We all saw the van video where the idiot jumped in front of it and claimed to be "hit". These protesters and their "lawyer" excel at one thing: hyperbole.

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    According to Sarah Gelsomino with the National Lawyers Guild and the People's Law Office, the NLG received 70 separate claims of police misconduct from Sunday's events.

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