‘Specialist’ disrupts NATO rally
Oak Park, 05/18/12--Iraq War vet "Specialist", from Spingfield, Missouri, holds up a sign expressing his views as he stands in line to purchase a train ticket. NATO protesters gather at the Ridgeland Ave. Green Line el stop to head to downtown Chicago for a rally and protest against NATO and its policies. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:25PM
His posture suggested a soldier in a war zone.
As he prepared to board a Green Line train in Oak Park to go down to the National Nurses United G8 protest at Daley Plaza Friday morning, he stood out from the other Oak Park natives and Missouri Occupy members.
He wore his short blond hair in a mohawk, a black sleeveless shirt, black calf-length pants, and bands on each wrist.
He seemed driven. Not unfriendly but guarded. Tightly wound.
Several hours later, videos captured him scaling the bridge tower at Michigan and Wacker and tearing off a NATO banner.
The 23-year-old man apparently goes by several names.
But on the trip downtown, he identified himself as “Specialist.”
“Are you a veteran?”
“Yes,” he said. “Army,” he volunteered without another question.
“What brings you here?”
“The piece of junk in my chest that still beats,” he said. “My heart.”
“In my experience,” he starts to say, then, “So many good people died.”
Specialist said he’s homeless.
Looking down at his brown boots, which are each wrapped in gray duct tape, he deadpans, “I’m from Arkansas. Duct tape is a fashion statement.”
On the train, he sits at the end of the car, leaning against the emergency exit door.
He talks about how he came to Chicago with his Missouri friends to be part of the Occupy movement.
“I consider it fate,” he offers. “It’s hearts colliding. We all have the same passion.”
“Even though I’m more aggressive,” he adds.
The American government, he allows, “wants us to be aggressive.”
“We don’t fight for the oil. We don’t fight for the weapons (of mass destruction). We fight for each other. As a band of brothers.”
When he exits at the Clark and Lake station he’s wearing a bandana around his neck. Half an hour later, at the rally, he pulls the bandana over his lower face and wanders off.
TV news stations and YouTube next show him ripping the bottom third of the NATO banner, his Arkansas footwear fashion statement evident as police swarm to the base of the tower.
Somehow, he breaks through the crowd and flees.
His behavior dismays at least one other protester.
“I’m unhappy,” said Tom Broderick. “This was supposed to entirely peaceful. I tried to explain that to him.”
The night before Broderick opened his Oak Park home to “Specialist” — who said his name was “Chance” — and four other Occupy protester from Springfield, Mo.
Broderick acknowledged Friday that he’d harbored some concern about the young man and what impact his behavior would have on Friday’s nurses’ rally. Their social justice issues were too important to obscure with disruptive behavior, he said.
“This was not the day. This was not NATO,” he said.
Asked if Specialist was arrested would Broderick help him bond out, Broderick pondered a moment.
“While I really don’t like to see people go to jail, if you did everything you could to get there, you’re on your own.”
Late Friday night Chicago police contacted Broderick and asked if he knew a Samuel Blantz, who was being held on criminal damage charges.
Broderick said he didn’t, but police say Blantz had Broderick’s name, address and phone number on his arm.
The officer asked if Broderick wanted to come down and pay $1,000 of Blantz’s $10,000 bond. Broderick declined.
Blantz’s next court date is May 25 in Chicago. Broderick said the officer told him Blantz has an attorney.