Hundreds of people joined the last of several protest rallies on Saturday evening in the busy Chicago Loop area, marching downtown where scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police who used batons against the protesters and push them to the ground.
With massive police forces and protesters remaining on Chicago streets late Saturday, it was not yet clear how and when the night would wind up, local press reports said.
The Saturday evening incident was among the first major tensions between police and demonstrators in two days of protest rallies leading up to the Sunday commencement of the major NATO summit.
Tensions were not reported as high earlier on Saturday, when hundreds of protesters marched to the City Hall in the afternoon to hold a solidarity rally on behalf of three out-of-state individuals facing state terrorism charges.
During a number of marches on Saturday, helmeted police officers steered the direction of the protesters away from the affluent Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile section of high-end retailers and hotels where many of the dignitaries attending the NATO meeting are staying.
Several protesters were arrested in the afternoon protest rallies in the mid section of the Chicago Loop when a heavily clad anti-riot police force reportedly moved in to assist a police bike patrol that was allegedly knocked down by the demonstrators.
Three more protesters were detained later in the day when they were confronted by a line of helmeted police officers, blocking the demonstrators from continuing on their path.
While the Saturday protest marches were reportedly largely spontaneous, the largest planned rally against the NATO alliance is set for Sunday, when the meeting opens amid the presence of a massive police force.
According to local press reports, behind the hundreds of police officers on bikes and on foot, the real muscle of the police force, there are anti-riot officers that maneuver to trouble spots with white vans to provide backup. The heavily clad police forces would remain in the background and will intervene when necessary.
The Saturday protests reportedly began across from the residence of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the influential former White House chief of staff for the Obama administration, where demonstrators marched against the Mayor’s planned cuts to mental health clinics, carrying banners that read, “Healthcare not warfare” and chanting “This is what democracy looks like.”