When I decided I wanted to photograph the NATO protests in Chicago, I made a decision to try my best to present an unbiased documentary of the weekend. Over the course of the 3 days (Saturday, May 19th through Monday, May 21st) I found myself getting further away from my original mindset. I know I can't be the only journalist who was unable to stayan un-opinionated bystander. In terms of the actual photographs, I believe I was able to stay pretty neutral. It's just that I saw many acts of violence, from a group yelling "peaceful protest" that then decides it's a great idea to try and charge a police barricade. But I never witnessed any case of police brutality or a case of a policeman using excessive force(despite how much it was reported from organizations like Occupy Chicago). Absolutely everything I personally witnessed and photographed showed me a side of the police force that I did not expect- organized, tolerant and even understanding. In the situations where I saw force used, every single one of them included an organization named Black Bloc. Besides them, the groups that protested NATO were very peaceful and friendly. It's sad that a relatively small group gave the entire protest a bad name.
Day one started off pretty slow. My buddy Spencer and I ran around trying to figure out where the protesters even were. Once we found them things got interesting.
The first incident happened when protesters were not allowed to turn onto a specific street. Once they began to get frustrated with the cops dictating which way they would go, the protesters decided to try and break through the police barricade. The Black Bloc, specifically, are the ones wearing black and hiding their face.
As night fell the protesters ended up at a stand still with the Chicago Police on Michigan Ave.
Before I called it a night, the protesters were allowed past the police barricade. But when they noticed a group of police officers on horses trying get in front of them, they linked arms and cut them off.
Sunday's gathering was the largest by far and it started off very peaceful.
Even the Black Bloc members were feeling peaceful in the morning.
Once the protest began they were looking for any excuse to cause trouble or better yet a fight.
At the end of march, and after a few speeches were made, the crowd was asked to disperse. Of course no one moved. The Black Bloc members wanted to break through the lines of police offers and of course the police officers couldn't let them get close to the NATO meetings.
Unfortunately for myself and other members of the press that also refused to leave, we got caught up in the chaos. I will say that getting hit with riot shields and batons hurt just as much as you might imagine, but we all knew it was going to happen if we wanted to be there to cover the story.
After the crowd was finally pushed back and dispersed I followed a small group of guys headed back into The Loop where they heard there would be another march forming. This one headed to the Art Institute where there was going to be a special dinner planned for some of the delegates.
They were easy to find. You could hear the yelling and the chants from blocks away.
After hours of running around and yelling arriving at the Art Institute was a great way to relax for a minute.
On my way to the start of a march and I ran into some out of state protesters reading the Red Eye's story of NATO.