Chicago, Il -A march that officially started around 6:30pm, but at 3:30 for those who simply traveled from one march to another, was focused around an anti-capitalist theme. The group of protesters started at Lake St. and Desplaines in Chicago’s West Loop. Following the success of a large, vocal, and influential rally and march the day before organized by the NNU (National Nurses Union), police seemed to be extra determined to dampen spirits and the confidence of the protesters who were running mostly on adrenaline, and the solidarity from their fellow brothers and sisters.
Within five minutes into the march, we were met with a line of riot police blocking the street in front of us and the right, and all of them had batons in hand. The front of the march took off to the left in a frantic sprint and everyone followed. This set the tone for the rest of the night, as we continued to try to out maneuver the police as we were trapped several times, and continually threatened with the stalking presence of riot police and mounted police officers. At one point to escape being kettled, we ran across the corner of a small garden then through a parking lot.
Never did we feel comfortable, tension and stress were consistently present, and the hot summer-like temperatures weren’t helping our endurance. Even when we were allowed (practically forced) to travel down certain streets due to blockades we were constantly surrounded and trapped at any given moment making an emergency escape for anyone impossible in case things got bad, but nonetheless we all did the only thing we could do: march and chant our asses off.
As the march came to Washington and State St. once again protesters found themselves trapped. Several times before and often the amorphous group was conflicted in which direction to go, and at times considered turning around and going back the way they came. This time though it seemed as if they had had enough. They came to exercise their first amendment right, had been intimidated and bullied and instead of trying to outmaneuver the police would try to move straight through the police line.
At that point a shoving match ensued, but the police quickly upped the ante and started swinging their batons, beating protesters. I quickly backed up to the sidewalk as I anticipated things getting bad. It didn’t take long for a woman to emerge from the crown bleeding from the head, with blood covering about half of her face.
Video from the Anti-Capitalist March via natoindymedia on YouTube
Those in my affinity group were quick to act and form a wall in front of her as to not incite panic, as well as to block off the media. We were effective in allowing the street medics to treat her while maintaining a relative calm as to not draw unnecessary attention to the violent situation.
As the march continued we were successful in doing the one thing the city of Chicago didn’t want: marching on Michigan Avenue, the world renowned Magnificent Mile, and the premier shopping street in the city, that is filled with large groups of people drinking, dining and shopping. We were able to put on display in front of the public an uncensored view of what a protest really looks like instead of relying on the media conglomerates. People were in awe of the display of police force as dozens of riot vans and police vehicles stormed in to provide back up. The march was then trapped onto Michigan and Congress, the location of Occupy Chicago’s GA’s (general assembly meetings), but hundreds of people were able to see from the median and the sidewalk the absurdity of the police state and how it treats those wishing to exercise their first amendment right.
Months ago we were scolded, jeered, and even threatened by the public, but now it seemed that the mood was overwhelmingly in support of the protesters. Those of us who were separated from the march started chanting in solidarity and quickly got other non-marchers to join. Creative, witty chants brightened and rather bleak situation because it was here last fall that those in Occupy Chicago was mass arrested twice.
It was in this climactic moment that energy skyrocketed as the divide between protester and civilian was removed. There was an instantaneous realization that what was occurring was wrong, as if everyone had a unifying moment of empathy for the march that was being bullied by the police state. Once the march was allowed to continue up Michigan virtually all the spectators followed along side the sidewalk and some even joined in on the street.
The power of the people had been unleashed Pandora’s Box and there is no way to put it back in. The stage is now set for the NATO protests in the next two days, and if this day is any type of a sign of things to come, then history will be made and Sam Cooke was right all along: A Change Gonna Come.