Monday May 21st 2012
Lucas, Emillio and myself woke up just after 9am, and made it down to the rally for the march against Boeing just before we circled up around 11am or so. Boeing decided to close its headquarters rather than deal with a demonstration. We had won. I popped another party popper since we were all waking up and cheering a bit. It was a small victory to be sure but a significant one given that slowing down that company’s business for even a day may have very well saved lives. We learned about how Boeing had been given tax exemptions for well over two decades and free slave labor from prisons in order to build death machines to sell back to the government…in addition to all the really uncomfortable commercial jets they make.
The local organizers prepared some street theater for this action and protestors divided into groups of people who would lie down on the ground and pretend to die while other protestors drew chalk circles around them while pretending to be drones. Emillio asked if was going to join in and I was, but my job is to play the pandeiro and help keep the beat or make it more interesting when we march. I also saw other organizers stalking up not only on standard issue Revolutionary Games “weaponry” such as silly string, soap bubbles, bags of confetti and confetti cannons similar to the one’s I always like to bring on marches, but also lots of red balloons, our calling card logo. Seeing unfamiliar faces flying the colors of my affinity group on their march made me feel completely at home and left me wondering as to which muse had spread the same ideas among so many deliberately disparate strangers.
Everyone on the march had been marching and working hard for days and weeks, but our bodies had grown increasingly addicted to the flow of adrenaline and endorphins and we let everyone who saw us in the streets and online know that we were at war with war and that we knew it had every bit as much to do with our economic enslavement as the devil’s bargains we had been forced to sign in exchange for education and homes.
It was a good march, I caught up with Lou and Matt, I had been playing my pandeiro and chanting when a photographer with a really cool looking old camera asked me if she could take my picture for a project she was working on. Her name was Annie and she’d been taking pictures of occupiers from occupations all over the country and had accumulated nearly 500 portraits. I thought it was a really interesting project and we stepped out of the march for a moment so she could focus the camera and get some good light. She told me she was taking a picture of a movement and not me. I liked that. Annie wrote down my name, where I was from and she asked me just as she’d asked the others in her portraits what I would wish for if I were given one wish. I managed to dodge the question somewhat by telling her I’d wish for the wisdom in order to make the best use of that one wish.
We chatted about Annie’s art projects and my academic projects for the rest of the march up to Boeing headquarters. I took lots of pictures of the action outside of Boeing which included enough chalk, silly string, soap bubbles, explosions of confetti and paper airplanes to make children from the staunchest republican families want to stop and play with anarchists.
Nicole and John found me on the march again. We traded our stories from the previous evening, marched, and chanted together through the streets of downtown Chicago from Boeing HQ past big corporate bank branches toward the last conference of the NATO summit on Michigan Ave.
I had been lost in conversation with John while we had paused onMichigan Ave for what must have been a moment of silence when he handed Occupied Stories flyers to three guys who had been casually listening to our conversation. I’d heard one of them talk about our position next to a bus to someone on the other end of his phone before John asked him about what had brought him to the march and to write about it as well. I thought that John was sincerely trying to do outreach so I asked the guy the same question a little differently to get him talking. He said they were machinists and they were just there to check the march out. He was vague, I asked them why they joined the march assuming they had wandered in having just seen it, but the most vocal of them with shades and cap said they new the march was coming but they were still vague and evasive. Once the march started again and we drifted away from them John told me he figured that they were undercover cops given that he saw them recording what we were talking about with their phones. The thought hadn’t struck me as my mind had been elsewhere. He also told me he’d seen perhaps six other people who were probably police slip on black block attire the previous evening.
The nature of oppression in our country is such that there is great joy to be found in transgressing against the system however transgression is hardly the same thing as terrorism, and these undercover cops at best caught me ranting, loosely based on the writings of Foucault and Nietzsche about how I think that everyone in society would probably be happier if our criminal justice system was still based on public torture like it used to be during the dark ages as opposed to the modern system of confined imprisonment we use today. I could only wonder as to what those three undercover dicks and their backup could possibly think of the notion.
I later introduced Nicole and John to Annie and they hit it off as I thought they might. The four of us decided to take a break from the rally and grab some deep dish pizza before John and Nicole had to split. I walked around ‘The Bean’ while Annie took Nicole and John’s portrait. She asked them both the same question about their one wish once we had made to the restaurant. Those of us who are involved with this movement are able to put a lot of trust in one another because we see each other so often in the streets, but most of us don’t actually know that much about one another other than the raw measure and strength of character which becomes nakedly visible to all out in the streets. It was a pleasure to slow down, eat pizza far better than almost any which can be found in New Yorkand talk without chants in the background. A few Chicago Police Officers had stopped by for lunch as well and were seated at a table next to ours. We exchanged pleasantries and stories. One of them told me that there were cameras all over the area where I had been clubbed. He didn’t seem especially fond of Rahm Emmanuel, ‘he’s the guy who signs my checks’ was the officer’s response when I asked his opinion of the politician.
I parted ways with Annie and then John and Nicole after we had finished eating. They had to catch a flight and I had to retrace my steps and try to figure out the location of where I’d been whacked by the riot place so I’d have something to tell the lawyers. I figured it was definitely on Wabash just off of VanBueren like the caption in the photo I later saw online of Shon and Becca checking me out when it had happened.
Tuesday May 22nd
I was scolded by a cashier for using a woman’s bathroom at a rest stop somewhere close to the edge of Pennsylvania during our bus odyssey home, I told her it was a New York thing but that I had remembered to put the seat back down. I also heard Mandolin say it was a New York thing as well after he walked out of it a moment later. I used a bathroom in a different area of the rest station after I’d finished some really bad lunch. The attendant mentioned to another man standing there that she only had another hour left to go in her day. “The longest hour of the whole day I bet?” She looked at me and said “honey you wouldn’t believe the kinda day I’ve had.” I involuntarily smirked as I glanced down from her to pull change from my wallet; I may have also shook my head a bit in disbelief at her last remark and said “tell me about it” in the tersest acquired Brooklyn accent I could manage. She asked me how my day could possibly be any worse than hers. I told her I was stuck on an 18 hour bus ride back from the NATO protests in Chicago with five staples in my head from a riot baton.
The cashier stared at me in disbelief. She made no attempt to convince me that her day had been more difficult than mine. She paused with disbelief for a moment of such a duration that I wasn’t sure if we were having a conversation. I angled over to the display case at the edge of the counter where all of the knives were because I have a shameless knife fetish. I realized I probably shouldn’t salivate over them while talking to these folks and turned my attention back towards them with a polite smirk. Clearly thrown off by the business suit I was wearing as much as my story, the cashier asked me why the police were beating on me given I was dressed the way I was and not my gritty occupier friends outside the rest stop. I mentioned that I hadn’t been in my suit at the time, but that the police were still pretty indiscriminate. It was a lot for them to process. The Occupy Movement, at least in NYC has certainly not managed to abolish the boundaries of class which still painfully persist even in our community, however we certainly have managed to maintain our solidarity despite those boundaries.
The cashier asked me if I thought our protests had done any good. I told her that the protests against NATO had turned into a 70,000 strong anti-war statement. I told the cashier and the other guy in the store about the veterans who talked about what the war is really like before they threw their medals away and the action against Boeing and how they didn’t pay taxes and used slave labor from prisons. I told them it did a lot of good I thumped my fist against my heart as I left them with a polite nod and smile.
The view of New York City from over that northern bridge over the Hudson was beautiful. It made all of us anxious to get off of the bus. Many on the bus wanted to start march directly after leaving the bus. They got their chance with a Montreal solidarity march from Washington Square Park to Union Square shortly later that evening. I swung byUnion Square after I’d missed the march. Thorin, Lauren, Jack and others looked like they were ready for more marching. Their choice is to take the streets or to live in them but I gratefully marched to the subway stop leading back to my apartment and shortly thereafter occupied my bed.