CHICAGO (Reuters) - A judge on Thursday rejected a request from anti-war protesters to demonstrate during the NATO summit of world leaders in May, but organizers said they would protest anyway and hope to draw 10,000 people or more opposed to war in Afghanistan.
“I can say definitively we are marching on May 20. We will hold a peaceful protest,” leader Andy Thayer said. He said organizers would get together to decide whether to appeal to a higher court.
Anti-war protesters want to march on May 20 and frustrated by the city’s refusal to allow a march that day. Activists have warned there could be a confrontation such as that during the anti-Vietnam War protests at the Democratic convention in 1968, which has marred Chicago’s image ever since.
The judge’s ruling on Thursday agreed with the city of Chicago, which had earlier denied the permit after a hearing at which city officials said the march would clog traffic and over-tax police resources.
The city had granted protesters a permit to hold a virtually identical rally and march on the day before, May 19, which coincided with a scheduled G8 summit prior to the NATO meeting. But the G8 summit was shifted to Camp David, near Washington, and Chicago protesters asked to move their demonstration a day later.
“Common sense tells you the city said it had enough resources to approve our application for May 19, when it had two summits. Now they say they don’t have enough personnel. It totally defies logic,” Thayer said.
A city spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
During the hearing, city officials said the summit of the NATO military alliance, which will include a host of world leaders, would bring more officials than the G8 summit, and more traffic.
They offered march organizers to move the planned demonstration from downtown Chicago to Grant Park, a lakefront expanse where President Barack Obama held his victory rally in 2008.
Protest organizers rejected the alternative, saying it would reduce their visibility to residents and the NATO leaders.
Part of the security costs for the summit will be defrayed by private donors. The city’s host committee for the NATO summit announced it had raised $55 million, including $36 million from corporations and other private donors and $19 million in U.S. government grants.
Reporting By Andrew Stern; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Greg McCune