NATO Protesters & NATO Reps Schedule Public Debate

NATO protesters are meeting with NATO summit representatives on May 17 for an unprecedented one-hour public debate, according to protester Andy Thayer, organizer of The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8.)

The event was orchestrated by the National Strategy Forum.

“We were contacted by the National Strategy Forum a few weeks back who said that they wanted to set up a dialogue between ourselves and NATO, and our position is -- it’s like oil and water,” said Thayer.

Thayer said his group would agree to a debate, but only if an audience was present.

“We’re not so naïve as to think that we’re going to convince NATO generals to do the right thing,” said Thayer. “We want to convince the general public.”

The event is scheduled to be held at the Pritzker Military Library at 6:00 pm next Thursday, May 17, said Thayer.

“It wasn’t our choice in terms of venue. We wanted a larger venue, but the National Strategy Forum, as well as NATO people, preferred a small venue,” he said. “Each side is going to be able to have 35 invited guests with the remainder of the room open to journalists who care to participate.”

Thayer says the guests on the protester’s side will include Iraq vets who are against the war, members of CANG8 and the media.

“We were insistent that this be a debate that was open to the news media,” said Thayer. “What we do know is that people in Chicago deserve a public debate. It’s happening three days before the summit. It speaks volumes about the contempt that our mayor has for the people of Chicago that there wasn’t even an illusion of Democratic input for this summit. That mimics NATO at large in the world. It’s important that we have transparency in this thing.”

The NATO representatives scheduled to participate in the debate are NATO spokesman James Appathurai and Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, but Thayer says that could very well change as the event nears.

Chicago Tonight spoke with staff at the library who would not confirm the upcoming event.

“The media has exploded with this report. It’s not confirmed. We may or may not have the debate. Stay tuned,” a staff member said.