Anti-war protesters march at Obama campaign headquarters

Reuters News

5/18/2012 7:07:14 PM - Reuters News

By Mary Wisniewski and Eric Johnson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A small group of anti-war demonstrators staged a peaceful "die in" on Thursday at President Barack Obama's election campaign headquarters in Chicago to demand an end to the war in Afghanistan and unmanned drone aircraft attacks overseas.

Despite calling ahead, some of the roughly 50 protesters said they were unable to deliver a letter to the Obama campaign calling for the United States to leave NATO and its "violent mission of protecting the 1 percent in the global economy who represent 99 percent of corporate wealth in the world."

The 99 percent slogan has been the signature of the anti-Wall Street Occupy movement, which says 1 percent of the population holds too much economic wealth.

The Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment about the protest. It was the second small protest at Obama's campaign headquarters this week in the run-up to the two-day NATO summit starting on Sunday in Chicago.

Demonstrations on Monday at Obama's campaign headquarters and at a federal immigration court on Tuesday resulted in 12 arrests. In most cases, police ordered protesters to leave and some refused. There were no arrests at a protest on Wednesday demanding a one-year moratorium on home foreclosures.

But a tussle on Tuesday between police on bicycles and protesters marching toward downtown led to a Los Angeles man being charged with aggravated battery to a police officer.

Police said Danny Johnson, 31, yelled obscenities and walked through street traffic when a police sergeant tried to get him back to the sidewalk. Police said Johnson punched the officer, knocking him off his bicycle. He was freed on $10,000 bond.

There was a strong police presence at Thursday's event, although they were not in riot gear and were mostly on bicycles.

Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy, who was at the protest, said: "Everything's going very well. They're protesting peacefully and we're facilitating that."

Police made no arrests during the four protests involving roughly 125 to 150 participants on Thursday, McCarthy said at an evening press conference, adding he was optimistic that upcoming rallies, which should draw bigger crowds, will be peaceful.

CALLING FOR NATO DISSOLUTION

Still, he issued a warning to protesters who plan to introduce theatrical components into their demonstrations or target police officers. "This really isn't a game. If people think they are coming here to have fun and play a game, they are making a mistake," McCarthy said.

"We are here speaking out against war and militarism. We are calling for NATO to be dissolved," Leah Bolger, 54, from Corvallis, Oregon, said on Thursday. She wore a shirt with a dove on the front and "I hate war" written on the back.

Amid a carnival atmosphere on a warm, sunny day, about 10 protesters pretended to be killed by a cardboard drone aircraft painted silver and held aloft by a demonstrator who also provided sound effects. The protesters' bodies were then outlined with pink chalk.

The killing of suspected militants, including American citizens overseas, by U.S. drone aircraft has been criticized by human rights and civil liberties groups.

Protesters then moved on to the Canadian and German consulates.

The crowd swelled to around 100 outside the Canadian Consulate as it was joined by demonstrators from a separate pro-environment protest, most of them on bikes and towing a guitar-playing folk singer on a wheeled platform.

At the Canadian Consulate, protesters poured a mixture of molasses, corn syrup and cocoa powder out of a mock oil pipeline on eight protesters who lay on the ground while the crowd chanted: "No blood for oil! No blood for oil!"

Canada and Germany both have troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force. The military alliance's strategy in Afghanistan will be the main agenda item for the NATO summit.

Chicago authorities are bracing for large protests during the summit, but they have so been sparse and largely peaceful.

(Writing By Nick Carey; editing by Andrew Stern and Todd Eastham)