The protesters blocked traffic in the heart of Chicago’s financial district as the city’s highways were being shut down for the first motorcades bearing leaders of 50 countries gathering for a NATO summit on Sunday and Monday.
“Whose streets? Our streets!” hundreds of protesters chanted as they marched past police mounted on horses and bicycles, while onlookers took pictures from the sidewalks and through the windows of shops and offices.
Fears that the protests could turn violent have put the city on edge, with some downtown businesses even telling office workers to ditch their suits and ties and dress down to avoid being hassled or targeted on the streets.
Police and protest organizers have vowed that there will be no repeat of the trouble that erupted at G20 summits in London and Toronto or the riots that scarred Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The decision to move the G8 summit — set for Friday and Saturday — from Chicago to the presidential retreat of Camp David outside Washington is expected to lessen the intensity of demonstrations inPresident Barack Obama’s adopted hometown.
“So far it’s been very peaceful,” Officer John Mirabelli of the Chicago Police Department said.
Just 14 people have been arrested in a week of street protests and nearly all were for acts of civil disobedience. One person who assaulted a police officer and another who acted “disorderly” were arrested on Friday.
The impromptu — and unsanctioned — marches were a mostly cheerful and disorganized affair, though some bandana-clad marchers chanted obscenities about the police and used sticks to drum on lamp posts.
They began after groups of protesters left a formal rally in which hundreds of nurses wearing Robin Hood hats and red t-shirts demanding “an economy for the 99 percent” pushed for a tax on financial transactions such as stock trades.
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