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Activists target Boeing for protests during NATO summit

Brian Bean, who is one of the Occupy Chicago activists organizing a protest against Boeing during the NATO summit, talks on May 9, 2012. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

It’s 10 feet high and it barricades the main public space outside the Boeing building.

But Boeing says the security fence it installed this week around its downtown Chicago headquarters is to protect the public from a long-term construction project – not to keep protesters out during the upcoming NATO summit.

Protesters aren’t so sure.

They plan to target the aerospace giant on the second day of the summit.

While the main focus of the protests against NATO is expected to be a march to McCormick Place on Sunday, May 20, Occupy Chicago activists hope that thousands of protesters will stick around until Monday May 21 to “shut down” Boeing’s North Riverside Plaza offices. It’s one of several protest events planned for the days surrounding the summit.

“Boeing doesn’t just make passenger planes – they should be known internationally more for making the F-18, the B2, the Appache helicopter and a whole host of missiles that are largely dropped on mud villages around the world,” said Brian Bean, a 31-year-old activist who is helping to organize the Boeing protest.

Bean said that Boeing is being targeted partly because “it’s there” in downtown Chicago but also because it “represents the synthesis of the dual agendas of war and poverty of NATO and the G-8. [Boeing] produces weapons that are used to kill poor and working people around the world, and at the same time they receive massive amounts of taxpayer cash from the federal government.”

Taxpayer money would be better spent on education and health care, activists say.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said the protesters are free to make their point but added that Boeing was “proud to support our military – we support the men and women who are fighting around the world for the United States.”

Though the fence was installed at Boeing soon after the protest was announced, Dern said it had been planned for months as part of a regrading project that will see the plaza outside the headquarters ripped out and replaced.

“The fences are going to be there until November or December – it’s nothing to do with NATO,” Dern said.

He declined to say whether Boeing staff would work out of the office on May 21.