Police, protesters offer opposite accounts of NATO events

May 22, 2012

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(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)
Joe Iosbaker said Chicago Police displayed indiscriminate brutality against demonstrators.
(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said it was a largely peaceful week of protests in Chicago.

Police and protesters have drastically different accounts of how anti-NATO street events in Chicago went over the last week, and on Monday both sides seemed to be taking a final stab at getting their perspective to dominate the lasting narrative. Both demonstrators and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy made ample time to speak with reporters on Monday, often repeating points they had made earlier in the day verbatim. The differences between their characterizations of events, however, are stark.

For starters, the two sides don’t agree on numbers, such as how many people participated in a big rally from Grant Park to McCormick Place on Sunday afternoon.

“You know that crowd...2,500 to 3,000 was well below the 15,000 to 20,000, 200 million people that everybody was anticipating was coming here,” McCarthy said on Monday.  McCarthy said his department relied on an aerial view estimate of how many people could fit within a certain space.

But protest organizer Joe Iosbaker said as many as 15,000 took to the streets for that march. Iosbaker said his estimate came from another demonstrator who stood at the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Roosevelt Rd. and counted the number of people who passed by.

"McCarthy promised this wouldn’t happen. And they didn’t act out of control, he ordered them to start swinging."
- Joe Iosbaker, protest organizer

Iosbaker, like many other demonstrators, also accused Chicago police of indiscriminate brutality on Sunday and at prior events.

“McCarthy promised this wouldn’t happen, and they didn’t act out of control,” Iosbaker said, speaking of police officers. “He ordered them to start swinging.”

McCarthy said his force responded surgically to isolated attacks on his officers, but characterized the week as largely peaceful.