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Updated 05/20/12 – 7:00 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Thousands of anti-NATO activists marched from Grant Park and staged a demonstration near McCormick Place where world leaders were meeting.
The peaceful organized protest contrasted with the behavior of some activists who remained after the event. Aggressive demonstrators clashed repeatedly with police, and several protesters were hauled off in restraints.
But before that, about 3,000 people gathered in Grant Park to listen to musicians and speakers fire up the crowd before beginning their march. The crowd marched west on Jackson to State Street, then south to Harrison, east to Michigan Avenue, and south to Michigan and Cermak, about a block away from the summit.
Once protesters reached McCormick Place, several war veterans took the stage, dressed in uniform, to speak about their opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Several veterans threw their service medals from the stage as part of the protest.
“Sometimes we make mistakes, and the way we change that is to accept responsibility for our mistakes,” one veteran told the crowd.
The march from Grant Park was calm and peaceful as protesters made their way along the city streets, as opposed to Saturday’s protest march, when hundreds of protesters repeatedly clashed with police, while wandering aimlessly through downtown.
So far this week, at least 18 people have been arrested during anti-NATO protests, according to Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. That number does not include the five people arrested for plotting to attack targets during the summit with Molotov cocktails.
Later during the march, officers arrested seven people around 2 p.m. at Harrison and Michigan. There were reports the group was carrying a bag of rocks.
Police prepared for the worst Sunday. Chicago police officers and Illinois State Police troopers in uniforms and riot helmets lined most stretches of the march route. Eight white vans followed behind the marchers.
Just before the march began, McCarthy was seen walking and nodding to a long line of officers along Columbus Drive.
As the marchers moved down the route chanting anti-was slogans, a long line of CPD officers followed alongside.
“You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off your riot suit,” the protesters chanted to police.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports some protesters faced a setback in their efforts to get to the protest rally. The bus company that has been driving hundreds of them around the city notified them Sunday morning that they will not provide rides to Grant Park from their housing locations.
The company said their drivers have worked too many hours already, and the buses need maintenance before Monday’s departure.
Before the march, CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports, about 100 police officers were searching a field near Cermak and State, which is near the end of the route, for possible weapons.
Dozens of protesters from Minnesota had already arrived at Grant Park before 7 a.m., bringing signs, food, and water to make sure they stay hydrated on a day when temperatures were already in the mid 70s by 7 a.m., and could reach a high of 90 degrees.
Sunday’s protest rally was expected to be the largest anti-NATO event this weekend but fell well short of the 10,000 organizers predicted.
Before they march, the group of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans gathered Sunday morning at the Petrillo Music Shell to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan.
“We’re here to say that we’ve accomplished that mission, and more,” said former Army Ranger Graham Clumpner, who was deployed twice to Afghanistan. “We’ve killed Osama bin Laden, we have destroyed the hierarchy of al Qaeda, reduced the Taliban to the third and fourth generations. But we are creating more enemies.”
Protest organizer Andy Thayer said, “I think we will be peaceful. I can’t vouch for the police. I think our one big guarantee that the city will be on good behavior is the fact that so many camera people like yourself will be out there.”
Protester Eric Angell said, “I’m going to be carrying a camera today, probably checking out the behavior of the police. … I lived in Chicago for a while, so I’ve seen the police state here in Chicago and I know it’s everywhere.”
Judy Kupfer, of Minnesota, said they came out to protest against NATO, because, “The wars over in the Mideast have gotten so out of hand, and we really need to get our boys home, and out of harm’s way. And we’re not accomplishing anything over there. It’s time to come home.”
Former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello performed there before about 40 speakers, many of them war veterans, were set to address the crowd.