Moving of G8 summit fails to move protestors
By Rana Khatib, Communications Intern
Although Obama relocated the G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David, activists still plan to protest the NATO summit. The G8 summit was planned to take place on May18 and 19 and May 20 and 21 for the NATO summit, since last summer. Activists readied themselves to protest the lack of efforts by these organizations until Obama announced the transfer of the G8 summit. Activists believe the summit was moved for one reason: fear.
Because of the very sudden change – Rahm Emanuel was given only an hour’s notice before the change happened- protestors assert that the threat of mass protests is the driving force behind the change in plans.
The anticipated G8 summit would have encountered thousands of protesters. Occupy Chicago, Chicago Coalition Against War, Gay Liberation Network, and the United National Antiwar Committee in Chicago, were a few of the organizations who planned protests. Since the G8 summit relocated out of Chicago to Camp David, activists say the protests will take place during the NATO summit, which remains in Chicago. The Huffington Post quoted Andy Thayer, leader of the Chicago Coalition Against War, saying, “Guess what? The protests are going to happen anyway because if (protesters) are upset about G-8, they have just as much reason to be upset about NATO.” Protestors are determined to voice their opinions, no matter the time, place, or consequence.
We are familiar with why activists believe the G8 was moved out of Chicago, but according to Obama it “would provide an informal and intimate setting to have a free-flowing conversation.” Obama claims his main concern is that fellow world leaders are comfortable during the summit, yet the NATO summit remains in Chicago. As Mike Shields, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police stated in The Huffington Post, it is a matter “over security concerns and the lack of confidence in Chicago’s preparedness.”
And let’s not forget the 2012 elections. Is it a coincidence that Obama relocated to Camp David with the elections just months away? Examiner.com states in an article, “it was a move to avoid bad PR ahead of 2012 elections.” Obama fears that protests will cost him votes, and preventing these protests ensures that he maintains his voters.
The change in the G8 summit encourages activists to continue their protests at the NATO summit. Joe Iosbaker, director of the United National Antiwar Committee in Chicago tells the Huffington Post, “The administration is taking G-8 someplace where they won’t have to face the people who suffer under their policies.”
The annual G8 summit always causes an air of controversy and contention because of the heated debate on foreign and domestic policies. The G8 and NATO groups claim to improve issues such as war, poverty, and economy, both nationally and globally. Opposers claim the reality is that citizens, worldwide, have yet to see any substantial improvements. Libyans suffered tear gas attacks, deaths, and were deprived living supplies because they tried to overthrow their former president, Muammar Gaddafi. Afghanistan has been in war since 2003, causing an immense number of casualties. In truth-out.org’s article, Why do we protest the Nato summit?, it states, “This war began to exceed the death toll of 9-11, civilian life for civilian life, in only the first few months, and over the last decade, the death toll has continued to mount.”
Those against the wars that NATO endorses believe they have spent money that could contribute to health care and education. An article in The DePaulia quotes DePaul alumni, Salazar saying NATO is a “tool that is used to promote the kind of wars that will profit large organizations, profit just a few oil companies and companies associated with western governments.” According to the National Priorities Project, $1.3 trillion dollars has been dispensed towards war. These are exactly the points protesters sought to address at this year’s summit.
Preventative measures taken by the organizers of the G8 summit to avoid mass protest seems to be apart of an ongoing trend of suppressing voices of opposition. Recently an article on obrag.org tells of a new anti-protest bill, passed on the 28th of February in the House of Representatives and on the 1st of March in the Senate stated that participating in any type of protest related to the Occupy Wall Street protests of the previous year, it is a “felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by a lengthy prison term.” Additionally, the FBI has been using grand juries to prosecute non-violent political activists, compromising their freedom of speech. These tactics limit how much people can stand up for their rights and encourage a culture of complacency.
Though activists hoped to protest at the G8 summit, they felt it was an accomplishment that their message was so strong that the President felt it necessary to relocate the summit. Iosbaker states in the Huffington Post, “It’s a major victory for those of us who are planning these protests.” Unwavering in their commitment to express their opposition to the G8 and NATO, protestors counter the attempts to keep them quiet and are determined to come out in large numbers for the NATO summit in May.