Last of NATO protesters gathered on Michigan Avenue
BY LEEANN SHELTON, MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA, LAUREN FITZPATRICK AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters May 21, 2012 5:24PM
Protesters against a proposed immigrant detention center in Crete, march from Union Park into the Loop to join a large group of protesters in Chicago on Monday, May 21, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
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Updated: May 22, 2012 10:39AM
About 100 anti-NATO demonstrators continued their weekend-long protest in the Loop Monday night, hours after most world leaders had left the city.
The remaining protesters had come from different demonstrations in the city Monday, including one outside President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters as well as another protesting immigration policies.
While the crowd swelled to a couple hundred earlier in the evening as protesters marched among the traffic on streets including State, Van Buren, Dearborn and Randolph, some demonstrators appeared to later be losing steam. At least one could be seen yawning while the protesters stopped at about 10 p.m. in the middle of Michigan Avenue at Jackson.
“This is kinda boring,” one man said. “I thought there’d be more people.”
Throughout most of the night police far outnumbered the remaining protesters and stopped them from crossing bridges as they tried to head north of the Chicago River.
Many of the protesters who had come from other cities boarded buses to go back home Monday evening.
Those that continued to march downtown screamed anti-NATO and anti-corporate chants. One had a sign saying they still planned to “Raise Hell.” They chanted, “Shame on you, shame on you!” After 11 p.m., several dozen protesters headed to Michigan and Congress, and held a “general meeting” in the middle of the street.
Earlier, a group of about 50 marchers set off from Chicago’s Union Park Monday toward a Chicago immigration office in protest of a planned immigrant detention center in suburban Crete.
The protest, led by the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign, was headed to the Chicago regional office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 101 W. Congress Parkway.
As they walked, they met up with a larger group of protesters who earlier targeted Boeing’s downtown headquarters and Obama’s re-election campaign office.
Organizers of the immigration march originally planned to board buses at the park and head to a march in Crete to coincide with a scheduled town hall meeting on the proposal in Crete Monday evening.
But security concerns over anti-NATO protesters caused officials to postpone the meeting, said U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).
Jackson agreed to postpone the meeting after consulting with local and federal law enforcement officials, according to a statement from Jackson’s office.
The statement said the meeting was canceled due to “security concerns raised by NATO and outside protesters who are threatening to come to Crete.”
Rozalinda Borcila, an opponent of the center marching with her 4-year-old daughter in a stroller, was angry the meeting was cancelled.
“They promised us a debate,” she said. “We’re coming to them.”
The combined group of 200 to 300 protesters went to the immigration office, many like Borcila wearing neon green T-shirts and shouting, “F--- ICE. Shut ICE down!”
“This is a meeting to get public input about their plans to build a new immigrant detention center,” Borcila told the masses sitting in the middle of the street outside the agency’s headquarters.
The proposed detention center, which would hold those awaiting deportation, is opposed by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other groups critical of U.S. immigration policies. Some residents of the Crete area, too, have opposed the plan.
The facility would be built by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies.
It is the same company that owns a prison in Jackson, Miss. where gangs launched a riot Sunday that involved as many as 300 inmates, some lashing out with sticks or homemade knives.
A guard was beaten to death and at least 19 other people were injured. The riot began Sunday afternoon and lasted into the night, police said. By 2:45 a.m. Monday, all inmates were back in their cells and the prison was locked down.
The prison holds nearly 2,500 low-security inmates, with most serving time for coming back to the United States after being deported, said Emilee Beach, a prison spokeswoman. Some of the inmates have also been convicted of other crimes, but their offenses were not immediately clear.
The company houses about 75,000 offenders and detainees in more than 60 facilities around the country, according to its website.
Contributing: AP, Sun-Times Media