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Chicago relents, grants NATO protesters a permit, activists say

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The city of Chicago agreed on Wednesday to allow opponents of Afghanistan war to stage a march during the two-day NATO summit of world leaders in May, according to a protest organizer.

The city had earlier denied activists a permit to parade on May 20, the first day of the two-day summit of the military alliance, saying the proposed march would clog traffic and over-tax police resources.

But on Wednesday, just hours before activists planned to file suit in federal court, the city relented and said it would allow a march on May 20, protest leader Andy Thayer said.

Activists hope as many as 10,000 people will voice their opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

Demonstrators will now be allowed to march through downtown and rally near the convention center where President Barack Obama and NATO leaders will meet, Thayer said.

A city spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Thayer, a leader of the group Coalition Against NATO-G8, said the activists, who oppose the war in Afghanistan, did not get everything they wanted.

A proposed rally at Daley Plaza, a downtown civic center, was rejected by city officials and the approved parade route is not the one organizers wanted.

Chicago was originally supposed to host back-to-back summits of the Group of Eight and NATO in May.

But last month, Obama announced the G8 summit would take place instead at his Camp David retreat in the Maryland mountains.

Chicago has a reputation for being tough on demonstrations stemming from its heavy-handed treatment of Vietnam War protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention that led to clashes on the city's streets.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)

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