Immigration activists arrested in rally leading up to NATO summit

Associated Press
Updated 5/15/2012 6:15 PM

Four people were arrested Tuesday after dozens of activists blocked entrances to a building that houses a federal immigration court -- a small demonstration by Chicago standards, but one that hints at what may come when the NATO summit starts this weekend.

The immigrant rights advocates, along with some from Occupy Chicago, picketed outside the new location of the court, using megaphones to yell chants like, "si, se puede," a Spanish phrase that loosely translates to "yes we can." Activists from various groups have planned rallies and protests each day until the summit starts Sunday.


On Tuesday, the activists called for an end to deportations and spoke against a proposed federal immigrant detention center in the Chicago area, among other things.

"The deportation of people and criminalization because they lack documents is wrong," said Crystal Vance Guerra, a 23-year-old who has family from Mexico.

Two activists -- including the Rev. Jose Landaverde, a highly visible figure in the immigrant rights movement -- were placed in handcuffs when they refused to move away from the building entrance. Minutes later, Occupy Chicago protesters took off into downtown streets, tried to block traffic and yelled at police. At least two more people were cuffed.

There was no damage or injuries. A Chicago police spokesman did not immediately have further details.

From the demonstration, it was evident that Chicago police are also gearing up for protests this week. A police videographer was on hand Tuesday and urged by another officer to follow protesters' movements. In recent days, police have had a more visible presence in the city; pairs of patrol cars have been stationed along the city's upscale shopping district on Michigan Avenue.

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During NATO, the Chicago Police Department will be out in full force, along with Illinois State Police and the Illinois National Guard. Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said officers from three out-of-state departments will also be in Chicago: Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.

The biggest anti-NATO protest is set for Sunday with a march from downtown to the convention center along Lake Michigan where about 50 heads of state are meeting. Protest organizers estimate thousands will participate.

At a news conference on Tuesday, leaders of some of the groups planning to demonstrate said they did not expect there to be very much violence.

Andy Thayer, a protest leader, said if there was violence "it will be nothing compared to the violence NATO sets out every day against the peoples of the world."

He said that the city has agreed to allow a rally near McCormick Place that will allow them to set up a stage -- a 30-foot flatbed truck he said will be provided by the city -- and allow protesters to have speakers so the speeches can be heard by a large crowd.

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