Occupy Chicago Set to Crash NATO Summit

In preparation for the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, 150 members of Occupy Chicago gathered near Daley Plaza to send a message to U.S. policymakers: stop spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars on defense, and bring those tax dollars home to help ease the economic suffering of Main Street America. The question is whether or not the protest, and upcoming protests preceding the NATO Summit, will help to gain traction for Occupy Chicago and the Occupy Movement as a whole.

The answer is no; this protest is nothing more than a symbolic showing by the Occupy Movement to maintain their relevance by riding on the coattails of the media coverage of the NATO Summit.

The notion of repurposing defense spending for social spending is not without merit in a moral examination of how the U.S. government spends our tax dollars. But, given the dubious results achieved by the Occupy Movement, these protests hardly seem to be more promising than what happened last fall. The characteristics of this campaign are in line with all the other Occupy protests preceding it, including the faults and flaws of those protests.

Like other occupy movement events, this series of protests has a bevy of social concerns. Matters like home foreclosures, the environment impact of gas guzzlers, illegal immigration, and RUSH LIMBAUGH MUST GO are all part of the mix of reasons that the occupiers are pushing into the limelight. The Occupy Movements mixed bag of issues has also been a plague for the movement. 

There are no solid reasons to believe that this round of protests will be any more effective than previous ones, especially when so many issues unrelated to NATO are brought up. In particular, the issues of home foreclosures and social spending on education and public healthcare – acts that support the argument that this protest is just using the NATO Summit as an excuse to get free publicity for many of the Occupy Movement's issues which are almost completely unrelated to the summit.

This is not to say that the protesters were devoid of a well-reasoned purpose in their efforts to use the NATO Summit. There was one explaination that stood out, and it came from Rachael Perrotta, a 32-year-old receptionist and a member of the press team for Occupy Chicago, who detailed why these occupiers chose to target the NATO Summit:

“We’re seeking to show how the policies and the money that goes to NATO trickles down to hurt people in every community in America and especially in Chicago. Over 800 million in U.S. tax dollars goes to fund NATO each year and our country is crumbling. Here in Chicago, they’re closing schools, they’re closing health clinics and we’re saying that we need our money to stay here to fund services in this country, not to go overseas to kill people on the other side of the world.”

While this explaination is more eloquent and appropriate for the summit, Perrotta’s gripe about spending on NATO neglects consideration for U.S. security interests in Europe – which have diminished since the end of the Cold War, but remain a vital area given the continued unrest in the Middle East and continuation of the military operations in Afghanistan. Americans tend to keep their eyes close to American shores with occasional, and passing interest, in what happens abroad when piqued by things like KONY 2012.

It would not be a stretch to say that Occupy Chicago doesn’t really know what U.S. security interests are with its NATO Allies, hence they feel comfortable saying that spending on NATO is a waste of money and ignorant by equating the purpose of the alliance to going “overseas to kill people on the other side of the world” – which is clearly not the purpose of NATO.

The protests of Occupy Chicago, in preparation for the NATO Summit next week, have not shown their motivations to be anything more than a shallow effort to gain attention while taking advantage of the press coverage.  They are stealing the limelight when attention should be given to the more serious deliberations of how NATO will move forward on issues like Afghanistan, or the plans for a smart defense in this age of austerity.

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Dillon Zhou

Dillon currently works as a Foreign Teacher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. He graduated from International Relations Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012. He previously worked at the Cyber Conflict Studies Association in Vienna, VA as a research assistant. He has also worked at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania and JFK Library's Declassification Unit. His primary areas of interests are in US-China Relations and US Cyber Security Policy. He is proficient in speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese.

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