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With NATO summit, Chicago seeks to avoid repeat of 1968 riots

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"The police are very aware they are on a world’s stage and [violence between police and protesters] has happened before, and they don’t want it to happen again,” Professor Pacyga says. “Rahm Emanuel wants no replay of ’68. No matter what he says, he has his eyes on other offices down the line.”

The Chicago Police Department estimates that at least 10,000 protesters will fill city streets this weekend, but groups like Occupy Chicago say they expect at least 50,000. Buses of protesters are arriving from both coasts, and some downtown churches have agreed to provide free housing and meals. Also on hand are legal workers from the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which is providing about 150 observers to monitor demonstrations and provide legal aid.

Some marches have already started, but the largest is expected to be Sunday afternoon. The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CAN-G8) will hold a noon rally at the Petrillo Band Shell and then a march to McCormick Place, where NATO events start that day. The group advocates for issues such as more accessible health care and public housing and education, and it is critical of the war in Afghanistan.

CAN-G8 organizer Andy Thayer says his organization stresses nonviolent action. “My biggest concern right now is that people may feel intimidated by expressing their First Amendment freedoms based on scare stories” in the media, he says.

For example, according to media reports Thursday, police raided an apartment late Wednesday and detained at least eight people described as NATO protesters. The National Lawyers Guild, which is representing those arrested, described the raid as “shoddy police work” Friday and said police confiscated a beer brewing equipment which they allegedly assumed was being used to make Molotov cocktails. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy described the raid as an “inquiry” and did not release any further information.

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