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'The table of community'.

"Come to the table of community instead of the table of war."

That was the message that 125 Catholic Workers brought to President Barack Obama's re-election campaign headquarters in Chicago on the morning of May 14. On the sidewalk outside the Prudential Building, the demonstrators set up a table with breakfast foods to hold a symbolic meal, inviting Obama and leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to break bread and discuss positive alternatives to war.

NATO, the 63-year-old defense alliance with 28 member states from North America and Europe, were to convene a summit with about a dozen partners and heads of state and heads of government, including Obama, May 20-21.

"We are here today to boldly proclaim our desire to live in a world where we say no to NATO and yes to community," said Chantal de Alcuaz of Chicago.

After singing, dancing, and sharing breakfast with passersby on the sidewalk, demonstrators entered the Prudential Building to deliver their invitation to the Obama campaign office. A few dozen carrying the breakfast table made it past building security guards and up escalators but got no farther, as the building's elevators had been halted.

From a balcony overlooking the atrium, they joined their companions below in singing gospel songs and dancing. Frank Cordaro of Des Moines, Iowa, read aloud the group's statement on the NATO summit before police warned the demonstrators to leave the building. Eight of the Catholic Workers, including Chris Spicer (top left) of the White Rose Catholic Worker community in Chicago, repeated their intent to deliver their message to the Obama campaign office and were arrested for trespassing.

Three of the eight arrested were released that evening on non-cash bonds. The other five saw a judge the next day; four pled guilty, while the fifth pled not guilty and was assigned a trial date.

The demonstration May 14 was the final event of the 2012 Midwest Catholic Worker Faith & Resistance Retreat, a weekend of discussion, reflection, prayer and action that drew activists from as far away as Massachusetts and California.

The demonstration kicked off a week of actions in response to the NATO summit. Activists are calling for a "Week without Capitalism" in protest of what they see as the "capitalism and militarism" of NATO, planning to focus on local community building through free markets, community meals, and skill sharing workshops, among other events.

The Catholic Workers oppose NATO's agenda of military solutions to the world's problems. De Alcuaz sees NATO's work as contrary to hers. "We serve the poor by practicing the works of mercy--feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, taking care of the sick, and the works of war are directly opposed to that."

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Title Annotation:Catholic Workers on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's military policy
Author:Haas, Robyn
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 25, 2012
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