A Look at Chicago's Protest King

Well-known activist Andy Thayer plans to make a mark on the G-8 and NATO Convention

When the G-8 and NATO summits arrive in Chicago in May, many will protest. None more professionally than Andy Thayer.

Thayer's extensive protesting background includes anti-war and gay rights demonstrations in Chicago. But the G-8 and NATO summits, a once-in-a-lifetime event, could be his crowning achievement.

"I'm not threatening anything," Thayer said at a press conference near city hall, timed to coincide with a committee meeting on ordinance proposals. "It's the mayor and the president who are threatening."

Thayer has spent almost every day since President Barack Obama announced the summits, meeting with other activists to plan protests that will draw coalitions of tens of thousands from across the world.

His first major battle has been fighting with City Hall over proposed ordinance changes. Thayer rallied against increased fines for demonstrators and was near City Hall on Tuesday when Emanuel administration officials walked back their proposal to increase fines for resisting arrest for fear of First Amendment issues.

Protest organizers, including Thayer, were not placated by the concession. They're still eyeing other proposed ordinances aimed at closing public parks, et. al., as a hindrance to their protests. Organizers seemed to promise anarchy during the 72-hour summit meetings in May.

"If these ordinances pass, all bets are off," Thayer said. "Why should people respect the law, if the law does not respect them?"

City officials promise to balance the first amendment rights of the thousands of demonstrators expected at the conference, with the needs to protect the public and preserve public order.  Although the fine provisions were rolled back, other changes, including new curfew hours in city parks, remain. And the protesters suggested those new requirements will only invite mayhem.

"The City is spending tens of millions of dollars to bring the elite of the global elite to Chicago," said Eric Ruder, of the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 Agenda of War and Poverty (CANGATE). "The rights to free speech are under assault."

Thayer's group, however, has already secured a permit for at least one demonstration at Daley Plaza during the summit weekend.

Mayor Emanuel said Chicago is working with the Secret Service and Federal Security Planning teams to establish an official protest area where the City "will provide sound amplification equipment, portable toilets, and other resources for protesters who wish to use it."

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