Busloads of Occupy activists have been arriving in Chicago to protest the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"We're trying to bring a critical mass of people back to the Occupy movement," said Nicole Powers, an activist and managing editor of Suicide Girls, a website that has extensively chronicled the Occupy movement since it began on Wall Street. "We want to get mass involvement back into the Occupy movement as we move into an election season."
Protestors plan to gather in Daley Plaza on Friday and on Saturday for a march to the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Sunday brings the climatic event: a march from Grant Park to the McCormick Place convention center, where NATO delegates will be meeting throughout the weekend.
The list of targets is smaller than it used to be. The Group of Eight was originally supposed to meet in Chicago this weekend, but White House officials scrapped the idea after word of the Occupy plans got out. Now the G8 is meeting in the seclusion of Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. Occupy protesters have happily taken credit for the move.
Many in Chicago have invoked the historical echoes of earlier protests -- the melee at 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the protests of international organizations like NATO that rattled cities around the world in the late-'90s and early-2000s. "I think that this is a historic weekend in Chicago," said Stephen Webber, an activist who helped organize bus trips for hundreds of activists from eight cities. "The fact that the G8 was supposed to be here and they moved to Camp David is indicative of the power of the narrative and the visibility of discontent in this country and around the world."
Protesters are not alone in anticipating something akin to the 1968 Chicago riots. The police department has supplied officers with pepper spray and $1 million worth of new riot gear. Cops arrested 20 participants in preliminary protests.
Webber, who helped start the group 99% Solidarity, an offshoot of the Occupy movement, said he opposed NATO because it fights wars and because governments fund those wars with money they should spend elsewhere."There's definitely a connection between the two and I think they're very important," Webber said. "My hope is 30 years from now, we won't have a need for marches like this."