Earlier this month, I boarded a train with my brother-in-law and headed to Chicago to protest the 2012 NATO Summit. If you are asking "why protest?" you can find a substantial list here.
Security had been ramped up and no food or liquids were allowed on the train. We met some fellow protesters during the trip and when we arrived at Union Station we hustled to make it to Grant Park on time. In transit to the park the sun was already warming our necks and I found myself reaching for the small tube of sunblock that I had stashed in my pocket.
We arrived in plenty of time to catch the pre-march rally at Petrillo Bandshell. Many stories were shared by fellow activists from around the world. The air was humid, yet vibrating with the passion of thousands as we prepared to march together for peace. Amidst a swirl of percussion the crowd was chanting: "We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!"
The police and security presence was heavy (some would say overkill and a waste of city funds). The march itself was peaceful, relaxed and without conflict. Regardless, the media focused primarily on the standoff between police and a small group of protesters that followed the scheduled march.
The most memorable moment of the day for me was at the end of the march when a large group of U.S. veterans from the organization Veterans For Peace addressed the crowd, shared their personal stories, denounced their previous "service" and threw their medals over the fence towards the building where the NATO officials were holding their meetings (a scene not witnessed since the U.S. war on Vietnam). Tears were streaming down the cheeks of onlookers and veterans alike as these brave individuals spoke of their brokenness for the people who's lives they had destroyed. You can find more coverage of this historical moment here. After the medal renouncing ceremony we followed the crowd towards the exit.
What follows is a gallery of photos, recording the events of the day. Click on the images to play a slideshow:
The image that will forever be imprinted in my consciousness occurred between those last two shots. First you see a veteran speaking to a few people with cameras who were briefly interviewing him. I snapped that photo as I walked by. Just as I passed by he finished talking and started to walk away from the crowd. In the few moments we were walking parallel to one another I glanced over just as he turned his head from those interviewing him. His face instantly became contorted with emotion and he began to weep. Within seconds he fell into the arms of a fellow veteran and I watched as they embraced each-other. It was clear their shared experiences of the horrors of war had propelled them to create new shared experiences in the journey toward peace.
Hailing from the Midwest, Christopher Sofolo is a husband (to one) and a father (of three). He is a somewhat sarcastic and ridiculously sentimental spiritual seeker and sociology student; always looking to absorb knowledge from all things/all people. He occasionally blogs at http://sofolo.posterous.com.