Organizers of the May 20 protest at the presence of the NATO war-wongerers in Chicago estimate that 15,000 protested Sunday. It was significant that in spite of the city-police-corporate media campaign to scare people away from attending, 15,000 came out, the largest ant-war protest in years, and the largest in Chicago since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The highlight of the protest was the closing rally, given over to Afghan and Iraq invasion war veterans. One by one they took the stage to explain why they were throwing back their medals. This can be seen in the May 21 program of Democracy Now, starting at about 9:38 in the program.

A combination of about 15 representatives of Midwest justice for Cuba and committees to free the Cuban 5 participated in the protest. We had three banners about Cuba taped up surrounding the stage at the opening rally, where they were seen by all. Two called for freeing the Cuban 5 and one called for ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba. We also carried 3 banners with the same message during the march. These were banners of the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, National Network on Cuba, Pastors for Peace and Detroit Metro Committee to Free the 5. Many people came up to us and congratulated us for carrying the message of the Cuban 5, and countless numbers of people took photos of us carrying the banners in the march.

It was quite obvious, that unlike 8-9 years ago, many people knew of the case and many were supportive of our work. Art Heitzer noted that a good number also stopped to take photos of his Cuban 5 t-shirts. He added, “When I was giving out literature to younger activists, especiallly those of color, I frequently asked them if they knew anyone who wanted to become a doctor but could not afford it, and then told them of what Cuba has offered. The reactions were universally and strongly positive, with some already having some awareness. In other conversations, I sometimes mentioned the recent firebombing of the travel agency in Miami, which none had heard of unless they were on some Cuba email list.”

We handed out about 1100 glossy palm cards about the Cuban 5 case put out by the Chicago Cuban 5 committee. We also distributed about 900 NNOC flyers with information on the U.S. blockade of Cuba, the Cuban 5 and the summer travel challenges to Cuba by African Awareness Association, Venceremos Brigade and IFCO/Pastors for Peace.

Many thanks to local representatives of Chicago Pastors for Peace, Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, Louisville Committee to Free the Cuban 5, Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba, and NNOC who participated in the 90 degree heat.