Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared on Suicide Girls Blog. Part one of the story may be found here; part two is here; and part three here. You can read more #noNATO coverage on Occupied Stories by clicking here.
The day started out so well. We began it with a hearty breakfast (our first sit-down meal in 4 days!), before heading down to the Occupy Chicago Convergence Center. The well-organized facility is located in the basement of Wellington Ave United Church, a branch of the United Church of Christ which is run by Dan Dale, a pastor that is sympathetic to the movement, and has gone above and beyond to help the cause.
By the time we got there, Occupy Wall Street’s Lauren had made herself at home in the Chicago occupation’s kitchen, and was serving up delicious breakfast burritos to anyone in need of sustenance. We spotted many familiar faces from the bus ride from LA milling around in the grazing area/community space, and met up with several personalities we’d conversed with on Twitter and seen on the livestreams over the past few months.
Our friends from OccupyLA’s #BaconBloc, whose mission is to push back against the overwhelming veganism of the movement, were busy planning an action involving candied bacon. We were also introduced to the mastermind behind Clown Bloq, which has been enjoying quite a lot of media attention of late. And while we awaited the bus, which was scheduled to take us to our next appointment, which used 99% Solidarity’s stamps to embellish our dollars bills with the meme “THE SYSTEM ISN’T BROKEN – IT’S FIXED.”
When our chauffeur arrived with his big ass bus, we headed to the back to hang with our new heroes, the Bay Area Nine, who’d been through hell and high water to make it to Chi-Town. Our destination was Homer Park, which served as a staging area for our scheduled protest outside the Ravenswood home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Our aim, to exercise the First Amendments rights he’d tried so hard to quash outside his front door.
The atmosphere was jovial as protesters gathered in the park, greeting friends and rehearsing chants ahead of the march. The sun shone and the sky was blue, the only clouds on the horizon where the two omnipresent police helicopters, which hovered overhead.
As our procession made its way through the park, and then the streets of the upper-middle class neighborhood, the rotating chants du jour included, “Fight, fight, fight. Healthcare is a human right”, “Healthcare is under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back,” and “Healthcare not warfare,” echoing the sentiments of yesterday’s NNU’s Robin Hood Tax rally, which called for a minuscule tax on trades to pay for, among other things, true universal healthcare. It was indicative of our government’s current priorities, that they spent tax dollars on helicopters to police a march for something that more civilized countries already consider to be a fundamental human right.
While moving through the well-kept suburban streets, we were greeted with a surprising warmth by locals, who came out of their business and homes to watch our procession. Code Pink’s “MAKE OUT, NOT WAR” stickers proved to be popular with the young female activists of tomorrow that we met along the way. Other locals en route that I spoke to told me they thought what we were doing was “amazing” and wished us “good luck.”
There was a large police presence when we arrived a Mayor Emanuel’s home. Most were wearing riot helmets, and were armed with plastic zip ties, batons, and bikes – the latter serving as mobile barricades which physically barred us from stepping on the mayor’s front lawn. Not that we would have. The protesters were very respectful of the fact that it was a residential neighborhood. The chanting had mostly ceased, and the human mic was functioning at a suitably low volume.
Vendors were serving refreshing frozen treats from carts. Despite their clear capitalist exploitation of our political gathering, many protesters, including this one, were more then happy to indulge in their wares. Indeed, the scene was more than a little comical, as battalions of riot cops stood amidst flowering shrubbery, policing protesters who were milling around eating ice cream.
After making our point, the protester gradually dissipated. As I walked back to the train station I saw two ACLU legal observers, who were easily identified by their bright orange T-shirts, thanking a group of CPD officers for their mostly good natured and restrained job. When I engaged the ACLU staffers in conversation, they told me that given the size of the action, which spilled from the pavement and onto the street due to the sheer volume of people, and the fact that it was un-permitted, things could easily have gone another way.
I remarked that this show of restraint was likely prompted, not by the Mayor’s new found respect for free speech, but by the fact that he didn’t want to be portrayed as the bad guy on the world stage. After all, though the mainstream media was conspicuous by its absence at this action, many around the world had tuned in thanks to the feeds pumped out by Occupy’s ever present livestreamers. Little did I know, that in a few short hours these brave citizen journalists would become the prime target of law enforcement agencies.
TO BE CONTINUED…