First Unplanned Arrests in Chicago NATO Week of Action Have Activists Saying Police Overreacted

In what may be the first unplanned arrests during the NATO week of action, two activists were arrested after protesters from an action at the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took the streets in downtown Chicago Tuesday. Along with two immigrant rights protesters arrested at a planned civil disobedience action earlier at ICE, it brings the total arrests on Tuesday to four.

Following the immigration protest at ICE headquarters, a group of about 75 marchers marched on the street for two Chicago streets blocks. The arrests took place after most marchers were back on the sidewalk and had made the decision to head back to Occupy Chicago’s downtown headquarters, though there were still a handful of individuals that were crossing the street.

Natalie Wahlberg, an activist with Occupy Chicago, said that both arrested protesters were peaceful and on the sidewalk when they were arrested by the Chicago Police Department.

“Police grabbed two peaceful protests while they were on the sidewalk,” said Wahlberg, and “started yelling at someone else to get back on the sidewalk as he was standing on the sidewalk.”

According to the Chicago Police Department, one of the protesters arrested was charged with two misdemeanor charges – aggravated assault of a police officer and the obstruction of traffic.

“It looks like he was swinging a flag on a large stick during the NATO demonstration and a bicycle officer was struck by that flag,” the spokesperson told Truthout. “When the officer told him to get on the sidewalk, he started shouting profanities.”

The coming NATO summit is expected to see an escalation of police forces in the city, with the city’s 12,000 strong police force to be deployed in riot gear. In addition, 500 state troopers will be deployed as well, the Chicago City Hall told sources in April.

On Tuesday, Chicago police also purchased two long-range acoustic device sound cannons, which “are equipped with a shrieking alarm able to send pain-inducing sound waves of up to 150 decibels that can be heard as far as 1,600 feet away, according to The Guardian. The use of the sound cannon is controversial since the human threshold for pain lies between 110 and 120 decibels,” NBC Chicago reported.

“This speaks to the nature of police violence in the city,” said Wahlberg. “The peaceful protesters are here to demonstrate against NATO’s war machine and it is currently being enforced by Rahm’s [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] goon squad.”