CHICAGO (Reuters) - Anti-war protesters converged on President Barack Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters on Monday but only got as far as the elevator before eight people were arrested, in the first of many protests expected around the NATO summit this weekend.
Roughly 125 demonstrators gathered at the downtown Chicago building housing the Obama offices as morning commuters streamed into work. Eight were arrested for trespassing, Chicago police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said.
Chicago is Obama’s hometown and more than 300 staff and volunteers work from early morning into the night at the Democratic incumbent’s re-election campaign headquarters, which takes up an entire floor of the 41-story One Prudential Plaza.
Dozens of protesters from across the country entered the building and scurried up escalators toward the elevators that go to the campaign’s office, said Jake Olzen, 28, of the Catholic Worker Movement, part of the coalition that staged the protest.
The group was thwarted at the bank of elevators - which security personnel had shut down - and turned instead to singing folk songs celebrating peace.
“Security did try to stop us at a number of different places but we adamantly, but peacefully, pushed forward as far as we could,” Olzen said.
Several protesters stepped into the elevators but when they hit the floor buttons there was no movement, Olzen said.
All but the eight protesters arrested left the building after a building manager told them to, Olzen said.
An official of the Obama campaign, who was in the office at the time, said the demonstration had not disrupted operations.
The protesters said they wanted to bring an anti-war and anti-capitalism message to both the Obama administration and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff. But they failed to deliver their message to the staff.
“We wanted to invite (Obama) and other NATO leaders to listen to us that we don’t need these institutions in our lives and in our countries,” Olzen said. “The war in Afghanistan is not ending, even though the president has said there would be troop withdrawals.”
Leaders from the 28 NATO member countries plus representatives of many of the 50 nations that have assisted military operations in Afghanistan were expected to discuss how to end the war without a collapse of the country or a return to power of the Islamist Taliban movement.
Obama traveled to Kabul this month to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The deal sets out a long-term U.S. role in Afghanistan, including aid and advisers, after most American and NATO combat soldiers withdraw by the end of 2014.
Protest organizers hope thousands of people will turn out during the summit to demonstrate against the war and other issues such as the income inequality theme championed by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The Chicago Workers Movement activities ushered in what it called a “Week Without Capitalism,” when it seeks to “protest against the capitalism and militarism of NATO-G8,” according to the letter the group was to deliver to Obama officials.
Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Doina Chiacu