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NATO Demonstrators Converged On Art Institute Last Night

By aaroncynic in News on May 21, 2012 7:00PM

Last night, demonstrators reconvened in the Loop for marches after the melee between police and protesters died down on Cermak and Michigan. Walking from the area where police arrested more than 40 demonstrators and bloodied multiple people after the conclusion of a peaceful march, we found small groups of protesters all over the South Loop, slowly making their way north. Police were out in force but were concentrated towards the area where the bulk of the arrests and clubbings took place.

Sometime around 7 p.m., a small group of 50 demonstrators who had been wandering north on Michigan Avenue formed up, took the street, and headed to the Art Institute. Within minutes, the group swelled to more than 100 and by the time marchers headed off Michigan to snake through the Loop, there were more than 500. Eventually, the group ballooned to more than 1,000 people and marchers ran through the Loop, switching directions and streets at an incredible pace.

Police started filling the downtown area, blocking off streets one by one, but their numbers were less than at the scene of the violence in the South Loop, so demonstrators were able to mostly avoid kettling situations. Tensions were high however, as tactical vans filled with riot police were spotted, and officers wielding clubs attempted to block marchers from moving at various points. At least one protester was tackled and, at another point, police shoved an independent journalist with a club.

Eventually, somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 demonstrators converged on the Art Institute, where Michelle Obama was hosting a private dinner for NATO delegates. The mood was more celebratory than earlier, as protesters danced in the rain in front of a wall of police, sometimes chanting “you're sexy, you're cute, take off the riot suit.” Still, the anger between both sides was palpable at times, and plenty of demonstrators shouted obscenities at the police lines and a few minor skirmishes were reported. Eventually, protesters left the area and began marching through the city streets again, and much later at night, made their way to Belmont and Western where a vigil was being held for those arrested earlier in the day. So far, many of the more than 40 arrested last night have been released.

Demonstrators are currently holding a rally outside Boeing headquarters, where they will reportedly feed anyone hungry for most of the day.