Massive Rally & March In Response To War
If there were any doubts about the strength and depth of the anti-war movement in Chicago, they were dispelled last night. In response to the U.S. attack of Iraq, over 15,000 people flooded into Chicago's streets and marched north up Lake Shore drive following last night's rally at the Federal Plaza. News reports claimed that Chicago's antiwar demonstration was the largest in the country yesterday.
By all accounts the rally and march were peaceful and very diverse – families with children, students, senior citizens, and others joined together in condemning the U.S. attack of Iraq. Many participants report that they were energized by the massive and spirited turnout Thursday, the largest yet for a Chicago antiwar rally, and will return today for another mass demonstration at 5:00 PM at Federal Plaza.
However, while the demonstrators were peaceful and non-violent, the response by the Chicago police was another matter. In the previous marches against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, police were more accommodating to marchers. As a result, the marches went smoothly, with the least amount of disruption.
At the outset tonight, the police seemed more intent on intimidating than making sure this rally and march would go smoothly. Only after it was obvious that they could not stop the mass of humanity that turned out for this march did the police take a less antagonistic attitude -- that is, until the marchers reached Oak Street and Michigan Avenue. The police held marchers there for a half hour. Police were wearing riot gear and carrying gas masks, a clear indication that they were willing to launch tear gas. Other than stopping traffic along Lake Shore Drive, the marchers had shown no indication of disruptive behavior. This was a peaceful crowd wanting its voice to be heard.
Those sentiments seemed to be confirmed by press reports from the ground, which verified that the march was peaceful and non-violent throughout -- and which took issue with the police version of events.
Hundreds of peaceful protesters were ultimately arrested Thursday night, after police refused to allow marchers to peacefully disburse from Oak Street or Chicago Avenue east of Michigan Avenue after the spirited march along Lake Shore Drive. While police allege that protestors refused an order to disperse, eyewitnesses - both reporters and protestors - say no such order was ever given. Demonstrators attempted to negotiate with the police for over two hours to allow people to exit the march, but police refused to negotiate, proceeded to box in thousands, and make mass arrests. By roughly 10 PM, police had begun permitting the bulk of the remaining protesters to exit the area in groups of twos and threes