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Groups Demand Right To Protest At NATO/G8 Summit

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Anti-War Protesters march down Michigan Avenue

About 1,000 anti-war protesters marched down Michigan Avenue on March 19, 2011, to mark the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Several groups are demanding that they be allowed to protest when the NATO/G8 summit comes to Chicago next year.

Representatives of activist groups and labor unions are set to hold a news conference Thursday morning. They want Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police officials to guarantee civil liberties, and the right to protest the summit.

The news conference will be held in City Hall outside the mayor’s office, according to a news release. The groups also plan to hand a letter to the mayor demanding protest permits.

The groups say their complaints were sparked by remarks by police Supt. Garry McCarthy published by the Chicago Sun-Times last week. He told the newspaper that deputy Supt. Debra Kirby already had been placed in charge of preparing the police response to anticipated protests, and that polie need to train for “mass arrests.”

McCarthy also told the newspaper that he would consult with officials in Pittsburgh in Seattle to see how they handled protests.

In 1999, an assortment of activist groups, labor unions, student unions and anarchists protested against the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, and some protesters were blamed for doing more than $2 million in damage to businesses as they vandalized corporate properties.

In 2009, a G-20 summit in Pittsburgh drew thousands of protesters, some of whom clashed with police. Several Chicago Police officers went to Pittsburgh to assist in the security effort.

But the protest groups pointed to an incident in Chicago in characterizing the city as having “a dismal track record of suppressing peaceful protesters in the city.”

In the news release, they noted the protest march at the state of the Iraq War in March 2003, in which participants were corralled between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue and about 900 people were arrested.

Police had said the group refused an order to disperse. But earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Richard Posner wrote in his ruling that police acted “without justification” in the arrests, and noted that the city had previously allowed the group to march without a permit.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the NATO/G8 summit next year will be a great opportunity for the city to showcase itself to the world.

As far as security, Emanuel said last month that he will look for help from the private sector to supplement what the city will have to do.

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