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NATO Summit: Protesters, Police Face Off In Largest Rally Against Chicago Summit Yet (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

By RYAN J. FOLEY and NOMAAN MERCHANT 05/20/12 10:44 PM ET AP

Nato Summit
A protester is detained at a march and rally during this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

CHICAGO -- Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Chicago on Sunday in one of the city's largest demonstrations in years, airing grievances about war, climate change and a wide range of other complaints as world leaders assembled for a NATO summit.

The protest, which for months had stirred worries about violence in the streets, drew together a broad assortment of participants, including peace activists joining with war veterans and people more focused on economic inequality. But the diversity of opinions also sowed doubts about whether there were too many messages to be effective.

And some of the most enduring images of the event were likely to be from the end – when a small group of demonstrators clashed with a line of police who tried to keep them from the lakeside convention center where President Barack Obama was hosting the gathering.

The protesters tried to move east toward McCormick Place, with some hurling sticks and bottles at police. Officers responded by swinging their batons. The two sides were locked in a standoff for nearly two hours, with police blocking the protesters' path and the crowd refusing to leave. Some protesters had blood streaming down their faces.

Authorities were seen making arrests one by one and leading individual demonstrators away in handcuffs.

After the clash near McCormick Place, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a news conference that the protests of the NATO Summit resulted in 45 people being arrested and four officers suffering injuries – one from a stab wound in the leg. Those numbers seemed certain to rise as new clashes erupted later in the night.

Hundreds of protesters gathered late Sunday night near the Art Institute of Chicago as first lady Michelle Obama hosted a dinner for spouses of NATO leaders inside. At least 100 Chicago police officers in riot gear were also at the scene.

Earlier at the protest near McCormick Place, Esther Westlake, a recent graduate of Northeastern Illinois University, marveled at the size of the crowd. She said she had been involved in marches protesting the Iraq War in Chicago but never one this big.

"It's crazy. There's so many people here," she said. "Having NATO in town is kind of exciting."

But she wondered whether the political agendas of the protesters were too unfocused to get diplomats' attention.

"It seems like there's so many messages and people aren't really sure what they want to get accomplished," Westlake said. "People just need to figure out what their argument is going to be."

She worried that some protesters participated simply "to do stupid things" and cause trouble.

Some participants called for the dissolution of NATO, the 63-year-old military alliance that is holding its 25th formal meeting in Chicago. It is the first time the summit has been held in a U.S. city other than Washington.

Diplomats at the meeting planned to discuss the war in Afghanistan, European missile defense and other international security matters.

"Basically NATO is used to keep the poor poor and the rich rich," said John Schraufnagel, who traveled from Minneapolis to Chicago for the march. Since the end of the Cold War, he said, the alliance has become "the enforcement arm of the ruling 1 percent, of the capitalist 1 percent."

The march lacked the size and single message that shaped the last major protest moment in Chicago, when nearly half a million people filled the city's downtown in 2006 to protest making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant.

At one point, dozens of protesters in black clothing surged toward a much smaller group of police, throwing objects at them. The badly outnumbered officers fought back with truncheons, and people on both sides threw punches. As police reinforcements moved in, the pack of violent protesters fled.

Authorities had planned to provide heightened security along the march route to protect people and property.

But unseasonably warm temperatures raised concerns about the safety of the marchers themselves. The city provided water, rest stations and cooling buses along the 2 1/2-mile protest route.

The heat offered an unexpected benefit for police: making it easier to spot potential troublemakers.

Before the summit, officers were told to keep an eye out for people wearing bulky clothing that could hide weapons or big pieces of cardboard that protesters could use to shield themselves against rubber bullets. But anyone wearing overcoats or sweat shirts was conspicuous on a 90-degree day, when many people wore T-shirts and shorts.

Organizers of Sunday's rally had initially predicted tens of thousands of protesters this weekend. But that was when the G-8 summit of leading industrial nations was also scheduled to be in Chicago. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama moved the Group of Eight economic meeting to Camp David, the secluded retreat in rural Maryland.

Chicago kept the NATO summit, which is not addressing the economy specifically. That left activists with the challenge of persuading groups as diverse as teachers, nurses and union laborers to show up for the Chicago protests even though the summit's main focus doesn't align with their most heart-felt issues.

At the end of the march, police appeared to be using precisely the tactics Superintendent Garry McCarthy said they would – extracting individuals from the crowd and quickly getting them away from the rest of the demonstrators.

Several times they could be seen pulling protesters into a line of officers, which parted briefly before quickly closing ranks again.

Police also used "sound cannons" to give orders to demonstrators and tried to relieve officers who had become fatigued to help prevent any escalation in violence.

The demonstrations unfolded just a day after three activists who traveled to Chicago for the summit were accused of manufacturing Molotov cocktails in a plot to attack Obama's campaign headquarters, Emanuel's home and other targets.

Defense lawyers argued that the police had trumped up the charges to frighten away peaceful protesters. They told a judge it was undercover officers who brought the firebombs to an apartment on Chicago's South Side where the men were arrested.

On Sunday, police said two other men were also in custody on charges they discussed making bombs prior to the summit. Authorities said the pair was not connected to the earlier arrests, although defense attorneys said all five were targeted by authorities to scare protesters away from the meeting.

___

Associated Press writers Michael Tarm, Robert Ray, Carla K. Johnson, Sophia Tareen and Don Babwin contributed to this report.

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  • Alex Kennedy, left, from Geneva, Ill., and Dillon Roberts, from Bartlett, Ill., kiss after a demonstration and march to President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters in Chicago on Monday, May 21, 2012, the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A Chicago police officer videotapes a verbal lashing from a protester outside the President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012, on the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

  • Protesters march to Boeing corporate offices for a demonstration as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. Demonstrators prepared Monday to launch another round of protests in the final hours of the NATO summit, a suburban community that could become the site of a detention facility to hold illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Protesters sit on Michigan Avenue and give the peace sign during a march to President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters in Chicago on Monday, May 21, 2012, the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A protester signals during a march to Boeing corporate offices for a demonstration as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. Demonstrators prepared Monday to launch another round of protests in the final hours of the NATO summit, a suburban community that could become the site of a detention facility to hold illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • A protester wearing mask of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, shoots out silly string during a demonstration outside Boeing corporate offices Monday, May 21 2012, in Chicago, on the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters shoot silly strings and blow bubbles while demonstrating in front of Boeing corporate offices as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Protesters demonstrate outside Boeing's corporate offices Monday, May 21 2012, in Chicago, on the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Barack Obama,

  • Barack Obama,

    President Barack Obama walks off stage at the end of his news conference at the closing of the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama arrives at a news conference at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

  • Barack Obama,

    President Barack Obama smiles during his news conference at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Kim Sung-hwan

    South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, right, talks with others attending the NATO Partners meeting during the NATO Summit, Monday, May 21, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Dalia Grybauskaite

    President Barack Obama arrives for the NATO Partners meeting during the NATO Summit, Monday, May 21, 2012, in Chicago. At left is Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Protesters chant during a demonstration in front of Boeing corporate offices as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy address the news media during a protest march to Boeing corporate offices for a demonstration as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • The NATO leaders gather for a group picture upon their arrival for dinner at Soldier Field in Chicago, Sunday, May 20, 2012. Front row from left are Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, Belgium Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, President Barack Obama, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Second row from left are Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Iceland's Prime Minister Johanna Siguroardottir, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti. Back row from left are Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, Latvian President Andris Berzins, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Romanian President Traian Basescu, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, and Slovakian President Ivan Gasparovic. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmu

    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a press conference in Chicago during the NATO 2012 Summit on May 21, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, Alexander Vershbow

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, accompanied by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, speaks at a meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers during the NATO Summit, Monday, May 21, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Barack Obama, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Mikhail Saakashvili, David Cameron,

    President Barack Obama takes his seat with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, right, at the Partners Meeting at the NATO Summit in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. At left is British Prime Minister David Cameron talking to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • Valerie Trierweiler

    French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler is welcome by pupils as she arrives to visit a French school in Chicago, Monday, May 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Feferberg, Pool)

  • Protesters demonstrate in front of Boeing corporate offices as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • Protesters fly paper airplanes during a demonstration outside Boeing corporate offices Monday, May 21 2012, in Chicago, on the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters participate in a "die-in" as part of a demonstration outside Boeing's headquarters Monday, May 21 2012, in Chicago, on the final day of the NATO summit. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters stage a die-in

    Protesters stage a die-in in front of Boeing corporate offices as a part of the NATO summit, Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Robert Graves)

  • Protesters gather at Union Park, in Chicago before marching to Boeing for a demonstration as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. Demonstrators prepared Monday to launch another round of protests in the final hours of the NATO summit, a suburban community that could become the site of a detention facility to hold illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • A protester uses her phone during a die-in at Boeing

    A protester uses her phone during a die-in at Boeing corporate offices as a part of the NATO summit Monday, May 21, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

  • A protester stands before Chicago Police at the Art Institute where First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting a dinner for the spouses of NATO dignitaries during this weekend's summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters gather in the rain at the Art Institute where First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting a dinner for the spouses of NATO dignitaries during this weekend's summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A protester gestures in the rain at the Art Institute where First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting a dinner for the spouses of NATO dignitaries during this weekend's summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Police stand infront of the Chicago Art Museam during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (Cengiz Yar Jr./AFP/GettyImages)

  • A protester mimics police infront of the Chicago Art Museam during NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (Cengiz Yar Jr./AFP/GettyImages)

  • A protester is helped after sustaining an injury at a protest march and rally during this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • A protester is detained by police at a march and rally during this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

  • Protesters stand off with police during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (Cengiz Yar Jr./AFP/GettyImages)

  • A Chicago Police officer confronts a protester during a march and rally at this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters stand off with police during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (Cengiz Yar Jr./AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police move in during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Protesters stand off with police during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (Cengiz Yar Jr./AFP/GettyImages)

  • Protesters clash with police during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A protester is carry away during protests against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20, 2012. Scuffles broke out at a Chicago protest which turned ugly when a few hundred anti-NATO demonstrators demanding an end to destructive wars refused police calls to clear the streets. An AFP correspondent saw about a dozen protestors roughly hauled away as they tried to muscle through a police cordon around a convention center where NATO leaders have gathered for a two-day summit. (TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Protester bloodied in clashes with police

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/linesarefuzzy"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/linesarefuzzy">linesarefuzzy</a>:<br />Protester bloodied in clashes with police during NATO protest in Chicago, May 20, 2012

  • A couple of war veterans greet before throwing their medals towards McCormick Place, site of this weekend's NATO summit, during a rally in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Chicago police scuffle with demonstrators during a protest march and rally at this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

  • A protester is detained at a march and rally during this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • A demonstrator and police face off during protest march at this weekend's NATO summit in Chicago Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Protesters march down Michigan Ave. in Chicago during this weekend's NATO summit Sunday, May 20, 2012 in Chicago.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • NATO leaders including President Barack Obama, pose for a photo at Soldier Field during NATO Summit in Chicago, Sunday, May 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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