Grant Park

Sketches from the NATO protests

So the 2012 NATO Summit is history, and the city of Chicago is still standing, despite the predictions by some of pandemonium in the streets. Whether due to the extraordinary precautions of the police force or a case of overhyped hysteria, things have returned to normal, much to the dismay of the cable news networks. On a whole, the day passed with only minor skirmishes with police. During the early hours, the biggest battle was with the heat. I was on hand for Friday's National Nurses United rally at Daley Plaza and Sunday's protest rally at Grant Park though I left before the march to McCormick place. The Grant Park crowd tried to keep cool as a steady stream of speakers read short prepared remarks aimed at NATO and human rights. As expected, there were good opportunities to sketch the faces in the crowd and on stage. I added color to some of the images later, which was especially needed in the case of the "generalissimo" in the hot pink uniform.

2012 Chicago NATO summit

So your brother's bound and gagged And they've chained him to a chair Won't you please come to Chicago just to sing In a land that's known as Freedom How can such a thing be fair Won't you please come to Chicago for the help that we can bring?

-Graham Nash "Chicago"

This May, Chicago will be host city for the 2012 NATO summit. It will mark the first time a NATO summit in the U.S. has been held outside Washington. Depending upon which source you reference, the three-day event will be met with either peaceful, family-friendly marches or will be a powder keg of potential violence.

In any case, given that this is an election year, and Chicago is seen as the hometown of President Obama, all eyes will be on the city, much as they were on election night, 2008, when President-elect Obama delivered his historic victory speech from Grant Park. Counter-NATO organizers are taking to social media sites to whip up support among their members and Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields estimates the number of protesters likely to convene in the city at upwards of 40,000. The first permits for protests during the summit have already been issued. So Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking extra precautions to ensure that the protests that DO occur are peaceful and any potential violent disruptions are headed off swiftly. The police force is undergoing riot baton training and ordering protective gear including over $190,000 for new state-of-the-art face shields.

With the potential for violent protests and strong reaction from law enforcement, there will surely be comparisons to Chicago's 1968 Democratic national convention, which was marked by violent clashes between antiwar protesters and then Mayor Richard J. Daley's police force. As the politician's convened, live televised images of bloody and beaten protesters being hauled off in paddy wagons tarnished both Daley's and Chicago's reputation in the years that followed.

However things play out this May in Chicago (and let's hope they remain peaceful), there are sure to be large crowds and strong opinions, which always makes for good sketching opportunities. I plan on being there with my drawing pad. If anyone cares to join in, drop me a line.