NATO Protests and the Role of Social Media

As Chicago returns to normal following the NATO summit, we thought we would take a closer look at how social media played an essential role in the anti-NATO protests that were held over the weekend.

Although Facebook also saw some action, most of the action from the weekend could be traced by following one of major hashtags used by protestors and news organizations on Twitter. While journalists and news organizations used the general hashtag #NATO to describe live events and updates, protesters and demonstrators introduced the hashtag #noNATO which quickly spread through Twitter and was tweeted nearly 59,000 times on Sunday alone. The hashtag was attached to general protest tweets, photos of protesters marching or being held by police and even live streaming footage of the various marches broadcast by several users through Ustream.

NATO Summit Chicago

Posted by Politico contributor Roger Smith via Twitter

The Chicago branch of the Occupy movement played a major part in organizing the marches, and even got help from other Occupy branches across the country spreading the word. In April, the organization held an event referred to as Chicago Spring — a reference to the Arab Spring movement — and that term was also applied to the weekend’s demonstrations. The hacktivist group Anonymous also got in on the action becoming one of the most influential #noNATO tweeters and even taking down the City of Chicago’s website.

NATO Summit Chicago, police

Posted by @AllAboutHelp on Twitter

The anti-NATO crowd was very vocal via Twitter, calling Chicago a police state after showing police holding demonstrators and sharing photos of lines of police in full riot gear. Because of the viral nature of the media taken on-scene, there have already been reports of misrepresentation, from ratio of police to protesters, to the number of protesters in attendance. It’s even spurred reactions in the form of memes from both sides of the debate.

NATO Summit ChicagoNATO Summit ChicagoMeanwhile, city officials stayed pretty quiet, making only a few major statements via their social accounts about the marches. The official Chicago Police Department Twitter account hasn’t posted anything since the end of April, and the lone reaction posted via Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Twitter feed stated that the CPD “showed the city and the country why they are the finest police department in the country.”

You can revisit the weekend’s events by exploring the #NATO and #noNATO hashtags on Twitter.