University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point students are set to participate in a mobile bicycle village known as the Grassroutes Caravan, to attend the NATO protests in Chicago, IL, this May. In five days, May 13-18, the caravan will travel about 180 miles from Madison, WI to their Chicago destination, stopping along the way to perform service projects.
The Cycles of Revolution – Brake the Banks Ride will include riding bicycles, camping, cooking and eating as a large group. The ride is a nonviolent demonstration with several faces.
The first, and most obvious, is demonstrating that large groups can safely, efficiently and positively travel long distance under pedal-power. The second is that a group of strangers can all come together and support each other as a mobile community and leave a positive impact on the communities that they pass through.
According to the Grassroutes Caravan Zine, “The most important thing to remember in fostering a healthy, daily village life, is that when we are able to function like a hive of bees, all buzzing and swarming together in cooperation, good-will and skill, we will be what we aim to be, and provide a safe, amazing journey for all of us, including our hosts!”
The Grassroutes Caravan Zine describes the ride and riders in the following two sentences: “We are a pedal-powered mobile village of resistance traveling together by bicycle to the NATO protests to demonstrate the link between our fossil fuels-based transportation systems and NATO’s resource wars agenda. We say ‘NO BLOOD FOR OIL’ to their insane policies and are riding bicycles to show it is possible to go long distances without burning gas.”
The protests in Chicago were originally going to oppose both NATO and the G8 summits. However, to divide protesters, the G8 summit has been moved to Camp David.
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was founded in 1949 by twelve countries to proliferate democracy and capitalism. The way in which NATO operates is if one member of NATO is attacked, it is as if all members of NATO were attacked. The entire alliance will then defend itself by any means necessary, including through the use of nuclear weapons.
NATO summits are strategic planning and evaluation meetings for heads of state and government to direct NATO activities. Summits are often used to discuss and cooperate with new policies, put key programs into motion and build partnerships with non-NATO countries.
“NATO is an instrument that the United States uses to advance its interests,” said Stephan Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University.
Since 1999, NATO’s heavy hand has waged war on three continents, concentrated in areas of energy resource deposits.
The G8, standing for “Group of 8,” consists of the eight richest industrialized nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Canada and Russia. G8 nations make up about 14 percent of the world population and represent about 60 percent of the Gross World Product. The G8 discusses and makes decisions on such topics as health, labor, law enforcement, economic and social development, energy, environment, terrorism and trade.
Controversy arises from the fact that six of the most influential NATO members are members of the G8, implying that the G8 has armed forces and the power to enforce its policies and defend its interests.
The Grassroutes Caravan is simply a group, legally and peacefully traveling in unison to Chicago for the protests. The individual views and opinions of riders is in no way representative of the entire group. Protests will take the form of peaceful marches, theatrical performances (including puppet shows), educational situations, activities and demonstrations.
While the city struggles with housing and income inequalities, “They are putting $65 million between federal funding and private donors to secure the city of Chicago. This means they are going to have a lot of police officers from out of town, a lot of paddy wagons and potentially fencing in the city,” said Katie Kloth, Biology major.
“We are going to oppose the inter-governmental military structure and say that we believe in something better than capitalism and stop at a few farms along the way,” Kloth said.