Reporting Mike Parker
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The first wave of anti-NATO protesters from out of town arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, four days ahead of the NATO summit.
“99.9% of us are, in fact … we’re peaceful,” said Michael Bellagatti, after getting off a bus from New York.
At least that’s what they were saying as their bus pulled into Chicago on Wednesday.
CBS 2′s Mike Parker reports those protesters were settling in in the Lakeview neighborhood Wednesday night.
Fellow protesters cheered “welcome to Chicago” as a charter bus carrying 45 protesters arrived at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, after a 38-hour ride from New York City. That church has offered to house as many protesters as it can hold during the summit.
The protesters said their trip from New York was grueling, but the cause was worth it.
“I started off as an anti-war activist, so coming for NATO, you know, what’s a bigger anti-war thing to protest than NATO?” Bellagatti said.
“Our cause is set up to heal America. That is our purpose for being out here; to address the inequalities in our system,” Nevada protester Maria Fehlig said.
Chances are you won’t see these protesters staying in the city’s fancier hotels.
“People open up their homes for tents, and for sleeping bags,” said New York protester Shen Tong. “And also, Occupy Chicago has been helping up placing our people.”
The Occupy Chicago transportation project will bring in 16 more busloads of out-of-town protesters by Thursday night.