It’s NATO week in Chicago and I don’t know about you but I’m planning on wearing my Hello Kitty riot gear. More than a decade ago, when I would participate in protests my mom would warn me not go. “Those things are dangerous and get out of control fast,” she would say. She would be appalled to know that I will be taking a shift with my co-workers to run a help desk for journalists downtown. My mom had good reason to fear large demonstrations where there would be police and military presence.
You see, when she was living in Mexico City she bought these cute blue shoes and decided to break them in on October 2, 1968. She wore them to work and on her way back she ended up taking a short cut home because her feet were killing her. She found herself in Tlatelolco plaza de las tres culturas in the middle of a demonstration.
In an instant, the demonstrators swallowed her up and it was at that moment that police officers and military surrounded the plaza and began shooting into the crowd. A quick thinking stranger pulled her under a bus. When she finally got home she had only one shoe on and no recollection of how she got home or what happened to the stranger that saved her life.
While the massacre at Tlatelolco is an example of a demonstration gone terribly wrong, this week all eyes will be on our beautiful global city. Chicago has a history of demonstrations from the peaceful immigrant marches a few years back to violence at the 1968 Democratic convention. It’s a mixed bag and perhaps it’s wishful thinking to visualize peaceful demonstrations between demonstrators and police given the history of the NATO summit.
If you are covering the demonstrations as a journalist, blogger, protester, or simply find yourself there out of curiosity and want to take a few pictures remember before you yell Chicago spring and get punched in the face or hit with a stick here is what you need to know to stay safe.
1. Let your family and friends know where you are going and check in with them frequently so they don’t worry. Make sure you are carrying identification.
2. If you are a journalist or photographer try to go with a second person that will be your eyes and ears while you are capturing audio or taking photos. It’s easy to get sucked into the swirl of a large crowd.
3. Be aware of your surroundings. If violence does occur make sure you are not near flying glass. Protect your eyes and head.
4. If your smart phone is lost or taken will you remember important phone numbers? Write down important phone numbers and take them with you.
5. Remember your fifth amendment right. If you don’t know it refresh your memory on this amendment…
6. If you are detained and need legal assistance call the National Lawyers Guild hot line 312-913-0039
7. Take a bottle of water with you. If someone peppers sprays you in the face you want to have access to water to wash it off your face. If you don’t have water with you make note of any public buildings or hotels in the area where you can go and use the bathroom to wash it off.
8. If you need medical attention there will be street medics providing basic first aide.
9. Use common sense
With this in mind, I’m off to build a battle ram made of cotton candy. Stay safe ladies!
NATO Summit Reporting Help Desk…773-234-NATO
Receive updates via cell phone at notifychicago.org
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