Outside the battle lines: Leaving the rally

To the west of the clash at Cermak and Michigan, protestors held back from returning

05/20/2012 8:00 PM

By NATO Team

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After the group of veterans at the head of Sunday's anti-NATO rally made their final speech on Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Cermak Road and Michigan Avenue, they urged the marchers to disburse and head west, toward buses and Cermak-Chinatown ‘L’ station.

“We ask you respectfully to disburse,” the veterans said.

A few marchers headed west almost immediately, but the majority of the crowd hesitated. Back and forth discussions ensued as marchers considered whether or not they should keep marching and, if so, when. As shouts of “Shut down NATO, ran through the air,” some headed north while others headed west.

Soon, it became clear that the path north was blocked. While some took it as a sign to head west, others decided to stay put.

West along Cermak, some of the departing marchers decided to hang back and wait to see if anything happens. At first, they were allowed to go back and forth underneath the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station at will. But as a group of marchers refused to leave the intersection, the police set up a barrier. Marchers were allowed to leave, but they weren’t allowed to go back in.

When a group of protestors tried to push toward the McCormick Place, a group of Occupy Chicago organizers attempted to get more medics to the clash site. Because of the barrier, they, along with the medics, found themselves trapped outside.

The marchers that made it out talked about the members of the Black Bloc were the ones who tried to push through to McCormick Place. One protestor showed Chicago Journal a video of a Black Bloc member with blood coming down her head and Occupy members trying to get a medic.

By 5 p.m., the police’s efforts to disburse the crowd in and outside the intersection became more insistent. They set up human barriers around every block. It worked the same way as the barrier by the intersection. Marchers were allowed to move west, but not east, and anyone found hesitating was directed and, at times, forcefully led west.

Walking west on Cermak, one found groups of marchers lingering along Cermak. As the police began to push the crowd westward, some marchers kept moving west, while others tried to make stand.

The most peculiar scene unfolded behind the police barrier west of State and Cermak intersection. There, the Chicago Police set up two rows of porta potties, and the protestors were allowed to use them as well. People in colorful clothing and face masks walked past law enforcement officers in heavy armor with barely a hint of animosity.

At the Cermak-Chinatown station, the police surrounded both Cermak exits. The marchers were directed toward the station. At the south exit, a small group of people who just arrived by ‘L’ tried to go east and join their protests. The police blocked them off.

Two Occupy medics sat by the north exit. They left the protest to buy water bottles and cold packs for marchers that got hit on the head.

“They won’t let us through because we’re carrying bottles of water,” said one of the medics.

But west of the station, there was little sign of the Occupy movement. The marchers that made their way west boarded the buses and the ‘L’ and left. A few minutes later, the Occupy medics left the station.

By 6:28 p.m., the overwhelming consensus was that the march was over.

“Come on,” a woman said to a group of her friends. “Let’s get some food.”

-Igor Studenkov

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