Yesterday afternoon, Occupy Chicago sprang back to life at LaSalle and Jackson. It was wonderful to turn the corner onto Jackson and hear the drums and the chants!
The occasion was a nationwide day of action to STOP! the Suppression of the Occupy Movement. Chicago was one of the major action centers, and the Chicago action was unanimously endorsed by Midwest Antiwar Mobilization, Cangate, and others. The February 28 action was widely publicized on places like Twitter (#F28); high-profile endorsements included a video message from Noam Chomsky.
I learned three things on #F28:
First and foremost: getting out into the public square and protesting is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to remain healthy. There have been other actions in which Occupy Chicago has protested in recent months -- like the Bradley Manning protest in December, the January 11 protest against Guantanamo, indefinite detention, and the NDAA, the February 4 protest against U.S. war moves on Iran, and others -- but #F28 was all about getting back to Occupy Chicago basics. It felt great to be back at LaSalle and Jackson, and to be marching through the Loop.
Second: passersby took note. There were looks of recognition, and lots of smiles -- and LOTS of honks. It was almost as if people in the street were saying, "Where you been?" And, yes, the people who have always felt threatened by Occupy Chicago -- the people who act dismissive of it, the ones who brush by and can't be bothered -- were back to flexing those muscles on #F28. Which is exactly why the wake-up call must continue . . . .
Third: the police were out in force and acting very peculiar. As the NLG speaker who reviewed the recent "Sit Down and Shut Up!" ordinances pointed out, there were all kinds of ordinance violations going on right there -- starting with the very fact that we were assembling in public without a permit. Of course, a fact that was brought out into the blinding light of day during the ordinance hearings -- and that the speaker emphasized last night -- is that Chicago's modus operandus is to have TONS of ordinances that it can then go ahead an enforse selectively. Kind of makes a mockery of equal protection, doesn't it?
Last night, the Chicago Police Department was on their best behavior. I imagine that they were under orders that went something like this: "OK, these people are out calling attention to the fact that we've been suppressing their free expression and walking all over their Constitutional rights. Whatever you do, DON'T arrest anyone!"
It is this last point that bears further thought. Just how long will it be before Rahm Emanuel changes direction once again and cracks down on free expression in Chicago? Certainly no one has any illusions that he is going to allow people to criticize NATO/G8 when they are in town. So it's just a matter of time, isn't it?
And another thing: How long will it be before the members of the CPD get fed up with the ridiculous position that Rahm has put them in: arranging for a hugely unpopular summit in Chicago, stirring up righteous indignation across the city and across the country, attracting the attention of every activist who has a pulse, putting in place draconian prohibitions on free expression, beefing up the police force ... and then telling the police to keep a lid on protest but don't create any headlines? WTF!!!
It feels good to be getting limbered up. May, 2012, can't come soon enough!
Photos courtesy FJJ.