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NATO Protesters Begin To Arrive In Chicago

CHICAGO (WBBM) - Protesters have begun to arrive in Chicago for next weekend's NATO meetings. Hundreds are getting an orientation by attending a two-day "People's Summit" at a warehouse near Chinatown.

Pat Hunt is one of the many protest organizers. She calls the "People's Summit" the protest kickoff -- and a way for activists to get up to speed.

"It shines a light," she said. "It gives people a chance to talk about issues that we don't normally talk about.

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There are workshops on NATO's funding sources and mission -- and what the protesters oppose and why. But there are other workshops as well on economic issues, gay rights and education.

"We will look power in the eyes and we will say to NATO, 'Get outta town," says retired Col. Ann Wright, a former soldier turned activist.

Wright spent nearly 30 years in the Army, and now's she's fighting against policies she once helped to carry out. She says an alliance that once stood as a bulwark against communism has mutated into a war-mongering machine and peddler of death.

"A hundred million dollars' worth of drones alone are going to be sold to NATO forces," she said.

Elsa Rassbach flew in from Berlin in order to take part in this week's protests. She's marched with protesters at NATO Summits in Portugal and Germany. But she says this one will be different.

"What's new is that Americans are taking on this issue. It's been a European issue for a long time but now Americans are becoming aware of NATO, of what NATO does," Rassbach told CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli.

Hunt said she expects "epic" demonstrations in a week, and said negotiations continue with the city of Chicago on a number of fronts, on everything from marching routes to placement of port-a-potties.

Hunt said she expects all of the protests, particularly the large May 20 march and rally, to be family-friendly.

City officials say that the NATO summit will pump more than $20 million into the local economy.

But the activists say it's not worth it.

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